Phelps' Victory Dance: It's Evolutionary

All primates share body language of pride, shame: researchers
By Rob Quinn,  Newser Staff
Posted Aug 12, 2008 10:36 AM CDT
Michael Phelps and his teammate Garret Weber-Gale celebrate as their team wins the gold in the men's 4x100-meter freestyle relay final at the Beijing 2008 Olympics, Monday, Aug. 11, 2008.    (AP Photo/David J. Phillip)
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(Newser) – The classic chest-out, arms-outstretched victory dance Olympic champ Michael Phelps performed after Sunday's 4-x-100 relay final is older than humanity, the LA Times reports. The same display of pride is instinctive to all primates, researchers say, and the body language of victory and defeat is rooted in the age-old need to confirm one's place in the pecking order.

In thousands of photos, the body language of victory crosses all cultures—and in blind athletes as well as sighted ones, indicating it's not imitative behavior. The slumped body language of defeat was the same for blind athletes and many sighted ones, but sighted athletes from individualistic countries like the US tended to override instinct and adopt a confident pose in defeat.