Jason Cohen, Psy.D, M.A.
Licensed Clinical Psychologist

Hello and welcome to my blog. My name is Jason Cohen, Psy.D., M.A., and I am a Licensed Clinical Psychologist practicing in San Luis Obispo,CA. I hope you find this information educational, helpful, and/or interesting. If there is a specfic area you would like me to address or you have a question, do not hesitate to contact me. In addressing your questions, I will be sure to word responses in a way to maintain your privacy. You are also encouraged to post a comment.  

*Please note that topics presented and discussions occuring within this blog: 1) are of a general nature and therefore may have limited relevance to specific situations, 2) do not constitute a professional relationship between Dr. Cohen and those reading blog material or posting comments, and 3) should not substitute consultation with a mental health professional.


AUG 16

Why athletes look mad while celebrating a victory.

posted by Dr. Cohen on August 16, 2012 4:10 as Sports


Sometimes watching an athlete’s reaction to winning is almost as enjoyable as watching the competition. As an avid martial artist for most of my life, I not only enjoyed watching Chuck Liddell win, but also his celebratory reaction. Raw emotion!! Recently in the Olympics we saw gold medalists act similarly - a person setting a new Olympic record in swimming punches the water, a winning volley ball team holds their hands out in fisted position and grimaces at the crowd, etc. Herein lays the dilemma. We may expect the team or individual who was defeated to express anger or aggression. After all, they lost. Interestingly, it is the winner who does this. And this is not just in sports, but an A+ on a test or a job well done is often met by a fist punching the air.

Why? Matsumoto & Hwang (2012) offer an explanation. As they describe, humans show a sense of triumph by grimacing or displaying aggressive facial expressions with their head titled forward and a direct gaze. They stand with their chest expanded and their arms raised above their shoulders or make punching motions. Their hands are often in fists but maybe clapping or with thumbs up, and they shout or utter. These behaviors would often signal aggression, and maybe even anger, yet when done together, we know this is the stance of triumph.

As Matsumoto & Hwang (2012) explain, this is not by chance, but rather by design. Primitively, winning is analogous with fitness and enhances social rank. This victory display allows for dominance and serves to intimidate others, "enhance feelings of power, prepar[tion] for future confrontations and establishing dominance in a hierarchy beyond the result itself.” In the end, making your victory known through such means may have been a way cavemen and women increased their likelihood of reproduction and survival.

Source: Matsumoto, D. & Hwang, H.S. (in press). Evidence for nonverbal expression of triumph. Evolution and Human Behavior. Elsevier.


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