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Winners Display Distinctive Behavioral Signals

Last Updated: January 17, 2014.

Winners display distinctive behavioral characteristics, which correlate with descriptions of dominance in the literature, according to a study published online Jan. 10 in Motivation and Emotion.

FRIDAY, Jan. 17, 2014 (HealthDay News) -- Winners display distinctive behavioral characteristics, which correlate with descriptions of dominance in the literature, according to a study published online Jan. 10 in Motivation and Emotion.

Hyisung C. Hwang, Ph.D., and David Matsumoto, Ph.D., from the San Francisco State University, examined the first whole-body reactions produced by winners of the medal matches from three Olympic judo competitions (2004 and 2008 Olympic Games and 2004 Paralympic Games). The authors sought to explore whether a dominance threat display as result of victory in agnostic encounters is produced in real life competition settings. A sample of athletes who were blind was included.

The researchers found that all the winners displayed three categories of behavioral signals: expansion (i.e., arms raised above shoulder, arms away from body, smile, chest out, head tilt back/up); aggression (i.e., grimace, fist, punching motion, shouting, facial aggression); and attention (i.e., direct gaze). These characteristics were observed in athletes of different cultural backgrounds as well as in blind athletes and correlated with descriptions of dominance displays identified in the literature.

"In conclusion, the bodily behavioral display of dominance threat is a discrete behavioral signal and is produced by winners in intense competition settings or moments," the authors write. "To date, those signals may be labeled as triumph, and are probably more apparent in societies and communities characterized with hierarchical structures."

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