- Olympian displays of pride and triumph, such as fist pumps, are universal and seen in all cultures.
- The displays have their roots in non-human primate visual communication.
- The movements affect both the individual and onlookers.
Fist pumps, hands in the air and jumping up and down, seen at every event at the Olympics, turn out to be the same across all cultures and likely have their roots in non-human primate displays.
When Olympic athletes like Michael Phelps, Gabby Douglas and Usain Bolt celebrate their wins, they are displaying a declaration of success that could date back to the earliest human societies and beyond, according to a new study that has been accepted for publication in the journal Evolution and Human Behavior.
"There is evidence for similar behavior in primates," lead author David Matsumoto told Discovery News. "In non-human primates, there are similar behaviors involving body enlargement, although with different hardware."
Matsumoto, a professor of psychology at San Francisco State University, and colleague Hyi Sung Hwang, identified displays of both triumph and pride at the Olympics. The fist-pump-chest-thrust move makes the individual look large and powerful. This expansive posture boosts testosterone, decreases levels of cortisol (a stress hormone), and increases feelings of power and risk tolerance.