Threatening postures and gazes "eye to eye" became an indispensable component before the start of the fight. How to understand who will win in battle?
Threatening postures and gazes "eye to eye" have become an indispensable part of the fighting ritual before the start of the fight. The two fighters, who had not previously thought about repulsing each other's memory and other organs, stand in a pose opposite each other, raise their clenched fists and gaze intently and menacingly into each other's eyes, fixing their gaze while the cameras chatter. This performance has always seemed like something of a lure for the media, but new research by psychologists from the University of Illinois suggests that this theater may be hiding a clue to the outcome of the upcoming fight.
Researchers have hypothesized that there is something in the expressions on the faces of the fighters during this confrontation that shows their competitive ability. This is a subtle and, perhaps, unintentional and wordless signal of obedience from one boxer to another. Recognition of the opponent's strength. Smile.
Facial expression has long been considered a reliable indicator of a person's true feelings. Darwin, in his book "On the Expression of Emotions in Man and Animals," writes that such expressions have evolved precisely in connection with the fact that they perform this important function. Smiling attracts empirical attention and is generally interpreted as a signal of a person's immediate and long-term well-being. The authors of one extremely interesting study showed that the frequency and "authenticity" of smiles in photographs in school albums indicates a higher level of subjective well-being of a person over the years.
But in different situations, a smile can mean different things. Scientists were especially interested in what a smile can mean when shown by one of the rivals. They suggested that this was not a signal to the fighter of a good mood, but a signal of obedience, demonstrating reduced aggression and a weakened willingness to fight the enemy. Previous studies confirm this possibility. In primates, bared teeth are a signal of submission and submission, a means of preventing dangerous and aggressive physical confrontation with others. Another study found that in humans, higher testosterone levels correlate with smile intensity: the higher the level, the fewer smiles. In another study, people smiled more often when they had lower social status.
So, if the fighter knows that the opponent is stronger than him, he can reveal this secret by coming face to face with the opponent in a duel of glances. If a fighter smiles, he realizes that he is in trouble. Further, scientists have made the assumption that such a demonstration of a smile can predict the outcome of the meeting. A smiling fighter is less aggressive and less likely to lose. And his opponent, having received a powerful incentive from the manifestation of such a weakness of the opponent, will act more aggressively and get more chances of winning.
To test this idea, the scientists first looked at the photographs and classified according to the intensity of the smile of 152 mixed martial arts fighters before the match during a match of gazes, and then compared these indicators with objective statistics of fights, taken from the site Fightmetric.com. Variables such as hitting efficiency, grappling efficiency, throws and knockouts were analyzed for both fighters.
As expected, the intensity of a smile correctly predicts the outcome of a fight and the level of hostility in combat. Interestingly, a smile indicates both a decrease in the hostility of the smiling person and an increase in the hostility of his opponent. In other words, both fighters seem to tune in to the information conveyed by the smile before the fight. These results were correct even when the differences in experience and skill (that is, in the bets on fighters) and in strength (height and weight) were checked. Do not rush to radically change your betting tactics, but keep in mind that a smile matters, as well as objective indicators.
To confirm the correlation data experimentally, the researchers conducted a second study in which they showed participants the same photographs as in the first study. But this time, the photos were changed, and they either showed a smile or had a neutral expression on their face. After watching, the researchers asked the participants to rank the fighters using their physical characteristics, as well as impressions of hostility, aggressiveness and tendency to dominate. As expected, the participants categorized the smiling fighters as less hostile, less aggressive, and less dominant. The important point here is as follows. The second study indicates that the results of the first study are determined by the intensity of the fighters' smiles, and not by some other characteristics of their bodies and faces.
To interpret it this way: the good guys finish last. But this is not entirely true. The authors also examined how the intensity of the smile in the photo before the fight determines the superiority in the ring and the outcome of future fights. If smiling simply helps us separate mildness from aggressiveness, then nice and smiling guys must consistently perform weaker than their hostile and aggressive rivals. But it turned out that this is not the case. Smiles vary depending on the situation and context. They say something about the strength dynamics just between this pair of fighters, not who they are in general. A fighter who smiles at opponent A, knowing that he is stronger than him, can look with a stone face at the weaker opponent B (who in such circumstances will be reduced to the position of a grinning idiot).
Scientists have made it clear that they do not know exactly why the fighters are smiling. But they suspect that they do not do it on purpose. But it is possible that in other circumstances, fighters deliberately portray submissiveness and submission in order to calm the opponent and create a false sense of superiority in him. In some circumstances, it is better to keep the enemy at close range. However, the findings suggest that combat is not one such circumstance. Whether we talk about strategy or something else, you can't win a match with just a smile.