The posed stare-down is a staple of the pre-fight ritual. Two fighters, one day removed from attempting to beat the memories from each other, stand impossibly close, raise their clenched fists and fix their gaze on the other’s eyes as cameras click away. This has always seemed little more than a vehicle for media hype, but new research from psychologists at the University of Illinois suggests that there may be clues in this bit of theatre that predict the results of the fight to come.
Specifically, the researchers hypothesized that there’s something about the fighters’ facial expressions in this standoff that reveal the competitive dynamics between them. A subtle, and perhaps unintentional, communication of submission from one fighter to the other. A recognition of the opponent’s power. The smile.
Facial expressions have long been thought to be reliable indicators of a person’s true feelings. Indeed, in his book “The Expression of the Emotions in Man and Animals” Darwin suggested that such expressions have evolved precisely because they serve this important function. The smile has attracted much empirical attention and has generally been interpreted as a signal of an individuals’ immediate, as well as long-term, well-being. In a particularly interesting study, the frequency and “authenticity” of smiles in high school yearbook photos tended to predict higher levels of subjective well-being years later.
Read the whole story: Scientific American
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