The Victor’s Stance

hi-judo-anger-852-jpgIn recent years there has been much talk about the stance a winner takes after a competition.  Originally labeled as pride, this “victory” stance has been studied by many researchers.  With the winter Olympics just around the corner it is prudent to note new research findings for the triumphant body language of the victor’s stance.

Time Magazine reports on the new findings from researchers at San Francisco State University that suggest the victory stance may be inherited and that athletes instinctively display this “aggressive dominance” over their opponent.

It raises interesting questions about the history of sports in general, says Dr. David Matsumoto, lead author of the study and professor of psychology at the university, “They are rarified forms of competition, and there is something very basic and primal about sports that lends itself nicely to these reactions and keeps them alive.”

Matsumoto became aware of the ubiquitousness of this posture during his years as the U.S. Olympic coach for judo. What I saw everyday in training and in competition had nothing to do with pride, he says. It’s all about just having clobbered somebody. It’s a sign or signal given to other members of the community who are watching.

He goes on to note that it’s likely an evolutionary trait, based on a need to express triumph, and dominance – and that it was something instinctive, that athletes weren’t even aware of conscious of doing.

From his previous work, Matsumoto coded these behaviors as expressing dominance rather than pride.  This was due to the fact that pride tends to be more reflective involving more gentle and internally directed behaviors. It also occurs at least a few seconds after the victory.

Dr. Matsumoto and his colleagues to studied video of Olympic judo medal matches and zeroed in on the athletes’ very first reactions after the match was over. CBC News  reports that the researchers reviewed more than 35 athletes from different countries, including congenitally blind competitors in the 2004 Paralympics.  Their report published in the journal Motivation and Emotion, they found that victors consistently engaged in any of a number of dominance behaviors, including throwing their hands up, expanding their chests, shouting, making fists, or pumping the air. The losers in the matches never exhibited such reactions, instead keeping their heads down and averting their gaze from those nearby.

The same effect was documented among Paralympic athletes who were born blind, and never had the opportunity to observe these dominance displays. This is a phenomenon that is occurring in people all around the world, in people who are blind and never saw it happen, he says.There is something wired in us to do that at that particular moment.


2 responses to “The Victor’s Stance”

  1. karen says:

    I see that your research is very focused on something straightforward like the victory stance, but I wonder if you would consider looking at Football. This is the only sport that claims to be able to distinguish between pride and dominance in handing out penalties for “taunting’ or “excessive celebration.” My husband insists that there is a racial component in the existence of such a penalty and the way it is handed out, and the recent brouhaha about Richard Sherman’s remarks certainly give his opinion some credence. Are displays of dominance by members of society who are supposed to be subordinate more unacceptable than those of the majority?

  2. Well our research didn’t focus on that, but I would say that there are definitely various individual and cultural differences in the meanings and values ascribed to victory displays of dominance, by victors as well as losers. And yes there are probably ethnic/racial differences at least in the perceptions of such meanings and values, except I don’t know if that has been studied systematically

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