News: Strutt your funky symmetry

Thursday 22 December 2005

Men who are good dancers have bodies that are more symmetrical than others – indicating genetic superiority, fitness and general attractiveness to the ladies..Those of us who have less symmetrical bodies are not only unimpressive on the dance floor, but it seems we also have a greater risk of disease, earlier death and poor reproductivity.

Charles Darwin was the first to suggest a link between the universal need to dance and sexual selection – but there hadn’t been any research in to the subject – until now. William Brown of Rutgers University, New Jersey, presents his findings in a paper in the scientific journal Nature.

The study is based on videos of 183 men and women dancing -carefully edited to avoid obvious signs of symmetry and shown to a second group who were asked to make judgements on dancing ability. The symmetry of the dancers was measured using the standard formats – and those who were judged the best dancers were also the most symmetrical.

Apparently the effect of symmetry is not so pronounced on males observing female dancers – and the study doesn’t seem to have measured responses to dancers of the same sex.


“Dance is believed to be important in courtship of species, including humans, but nothing is known about what dance reveals about the underlying [physical or genetic] quality of the dancer,” say the researchers, led by William Brown and Robert Trivers of Rutgers University, New Jersey. “Here we report that there are strong positive associations between symmetry and dancing ability, and these associations were stronger in men than in women,” Read more in the Independent, 22 Dec

‘Prof Brown found that symmetrical men were evaluated by their peers as significantly better dancers than asymmetric males. Likewise, men preferred the dances of symmetrical women, although this effect was not as marked, confirming the researchers’ theory that women are more choosy in selecting their mates.’ Read more in the Guardian, 22 Dec

The report is available on the Nature website – but you need to subscribe to read it in full:

Other links

‘So now we know what chorophobia is: not just the fear of looking ludicrous on the dance floor, but a wise precaution – if you don’t have symmetry, stay seated.’ Howard Jacobson in the Independent, 24 Dec

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