Researchers have already identified the telltale signs of a bad dancer. Now a team at the University of Jyvaskyla in Finland has found that the way you dance can be a strong indicator of your personality.
People use body motions as reliable indicators of others’ personality types, and even the movements of robots have been shown to elicit attributes of ‘personality’ by observers,” said Dr. Geoff Luck, the head researcher.
(Incidentally, his specialty is in “music-related movement”—we want his job.)
The researchers studied the dance moves of a test group of volunteers, who’d taken personality tests and scored highly in one of five personality types. The volunteers were then asked to cut a rug to 30 different tracks of music—ranging from techno to Latin to funk—while motion-capture technology recorded and analyzed their movement.
And here are their results:
- Extroverts tend to move their bodies around most on the dance floor, often with energetic and exaggerated movements of their head and arms.
- Neurotic individuals dance with sharp, jerky movements of their hands and feet—a style that might be recognized by clubbers and wedding guests as the “shuffle.”
- Agreeable personalities tend to have smoother dancing styles, making use of the dance floor by moving side to side while swinging their hands.
- Open-minded people make rhythmic up-and-down movements, and don’t move around as much as others.
- Conscientious or dutiful people move around the dance floor a lot, and move their hands over larger distances.
There were, however, exceptions. Latin music, for instance, pushed agreeable personalities to move around more, while techno encouraged conscientious volunteers to make smaller, jerkier moves. Oh, and rock music produced an extroverted (scientifically dubbed) “headbanging” in personality types across the board.
So what do professional dancers have to say about this research? Michelle Groves, dean at the Royal Academy of Dance, weighed in:
Professional dancers tend to have introverted personalities, but they are highly emotional which they draw on when they are performing. It is a nice contrast to this research with people who have not been through a period of training, as their personality comes through more clearly and it hasn’t been self-selected.
Overall though, even psychologists will admit that the way you dance has more to do with confidence than some genetic predisposition for certain dance styles. Here’s Dr. Peter Lovatt, a psychologist from the University Hertfordhire (and former professional dancer):
We have done some work asking 14,000 people to describe their dancing styles and we saw that dancing changes with age as their confidence in dancing changes. Confidence plays an important role in the way people dance. Self-esteem also plays an important role, and this can influence a person’s personality.
Sure. But tell that to Mr. Personality.