[Paleopsych] Live Science: Link Between Dancing Ability and Mating Quality
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Thu Jan 12 18:48:18 UTC 2006
Science: Link Between Dancing Ability and Mating Quality
Symmetrical People Make Better Dancers
By Ker Than
posted: 21 December 2005
[Joel Garreau's new book, _Radical Evolution: The Promise and Peril of
Enhancing Our Minds, Our Bodies--and What It Means to be Human_ (NY: Doubleday,
2005) has just arrived. I am signed up to review it for _The Journal of
Evolution and Technology_ and commenced reading it at once. Accordingly, I have
stopped grabbing articles to forward until I have written my review *and* have
caught up on my reading, this last going on for how many ever weeks it takes. I
have a backlog of articles to send and will exhaust them by the end of the
year. After that, I have a big batch of journal articles I downloaded on my
annual visit to the University of Virginia and will dole our conversions from
PDF to TXT at the rate of one a day. I'll also participate in discussions and
do up and occasional meme. But you'll be on your own in analyzing the news. I
hope I have given you some of the tools to do so.]
Many people are attracted to hot dancers, and a new study suggests part of the
reason is because their bodies are more symmetrical than those of the less
The researchers found that men judged to be better dancers tended to have a
higher degree of body symmetry, a factor that has been linked to overall
attractiveness and health in other research .
The new study involved 183 Jamaican teenagers, ranging between 14-19 years old,
who danced while their movements were captured using motion-capture cameras
similar to those used in video games and movies to give computer-generated
characters fluid movements.
Women watching the recordings preferred the dances of men who were more
symmetrical, while men were more impressed by the dances of more symmetric
Women are pickier
Interestingly, the male preference for symmetric females was not as strong as
that of the female preference for symmetric males. This seems to confirm the
theory that women are pickier when selecting a mate, since they bear most of
the burden of raising a child, the researchers say.
According to the researchers, their study is the first of its type.
Regular videotape or film can't separate the dance from what the people look
like, said study member Lee Cronk, an anthropologist at Rutgers University in
New Jersey. "With motion capture, we can do that and get just pure dance
All of us have asymmetries in our bodies. The index finger on one hand might be
longer than the other, for example, or the left foot may be slightly larger
than the right. Researchers call these fluctuating asymmetries, or FA.
According to one hypothesis, FA is an indicator of an individual's ability to
cope with the stresses and pressures associated with body development.
"As you're developing, all sorts of things come at you, like diseases and
injury," Cronk told LiveScience. "If you're able to develop symmetry despite
all of that, then that would indicate to others that you have what it takes to
make a go of it in that environment."
A high degree of body symmetry serves as a subtle advertisement of genetic
quality and health, the thinking goes.
While most people don't go around measuring and comparing body parts of
potential mates, it's thought that we pick up on these cues subconsciously. The
idea that there is an association between body symmetry and health comes from
various animal and human studies. Peahens and barn swallows prefer males with
more symmetrical tails. One study found that women experience more orgasms
during sex with male partners whose features are more symmetrical, regardless
of the level of romantic attachment or the sexual experience of the guy.
What's any of this got to do with dancing?
The researchers speculate that higher body symmetry might also indicate better
neuromuscular coordination. This may influence dance ability since attractive
dances can be more rhythmic and more difficult to perform.
The study, led by William Brown of Rutgers, was detailed in the Dec. 22 issue
of the journal Nature.
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