Dance is one type of movement that expresses emotion, however perceptions of dance movements and the corresponding trait inferences of the dancer have received no attention in the literature. This study examined how people determine dancer trait and emotion characteristics from point-light displays of dance, and whether dance experience affects differential attunements to dance movements. Dancers performed one “sad” and one “happy” dance while being filmed in point light, which is a technique used to isolate movement cues from other person information (such as race, sex, height). Experienced dancers and dance novices served as participants and judged the dances on two types of measures – movement (e.g., constricted-open) and dancer trait characteristics (e.g., happy-sad). The results revealed that all participants easily judged happy dances as happier, stronger, and more approachable, dominant, and extroverted than sad dances. However, movement judgments of happy dances were affected by experience, as experienced dancers perceived movements in the happy dances to be less free, fluid, and relaxed, but more exaggerated, than did novices. These results support ecological theory (McArthur & Baron, 1983) in that all were easily able to determine dancer traits and emotion from dances, but find discriminations among the dance movements during fast, happy dances were typically made only by those who had dance training and were attuned to minute motion differences.
Brownlow, Sheila; Dixon, Amy R.; Egbert, Carrie A.; and Radcliffe, Rebecca D.
"Perception of Movement and Dancer Characteristics from Point-Light Displays of Dance,"
The Psychological Record: Vol. 47
, Article 5.
Available at: http://opensiuc.lib.siu.edu/tpr/vol47/iss3/5