Friday, June 11, 2010

Why Dads Can't Dance

This is a topic that's dear to my heart? Why? Because it's one of the few things where Denyse O'Leary and I completely agree—the silliness of evolutionary psychology.

Here's her blog posting [Coffee!!! Evolution explains why Dad’s dancing is so awful, except where it isn’t]. Here's the article published in the Telegraph ['Dad dancing' may be the result of evolution, scientists claim]. The "scientist" is Peter Lovatt, a psychologist and a dancer at the University of Hertfordshire (UK).
The cringeworthy "dad dancing" witnessed at wedding receptions every weekend may be an unconscious way in which ageing males repel the attention of young women, leaving the field clear for men at their sexual peak.

"The message their dancing sends out is 'stay away, I'm not fertile'," said Dr Peter Lovatt, a psychologist at the University of Hertfordshire who has compared the dancing styles and confidence levels of nearly 14,000 people.

His research has backed up scientific studies showing a connection between dancing, hormones and sexual selection.

Men between the ages of 35 and 60 typically attempt complex moves with limited co-ordination – an observation that will be obvious to anyone who saw George W Bush shake his stuff with a troupe of West African performers in 2007.

Dr Lovatt pointed to research showing that women could gauge the testosterone levels of their dance partners by the style and energy of their moves, and suggested that "dad dancing" may be a way of warning women of child-bearing age that they might be better off looking elsewhere.

"It would seem completely unsurprising to me that since middle-aged men have passed their natural reproductive age, and probably have a family already, evolution would act to ensure they are no longer attractive to 18-year-old girls," Dr Lovatt said.
No comment is necessary except to say that psychology better do something to clean up its image or the entire discipline is going to become a joke.

[Photo Credit: That's my daughter Jane at her wedding in June 2007. And that's me, demonstraing my infertility in the same way my cavemen ancestors might have done.]


  1. Yeah, no comment is necessary, but this is the internet, so: Males over 35 are still more than adequately fertile. So the hypothesis would seem to fail right there.

  2. As a grad student in social psychology I agree completely. Those conclusions are ridiculous. Please take my word that evolutionary psychology is often held in low esteem among psychological scientists. The phrase "just so stories" is often used. It would make me sad to be lumped in with that joker.

  3. Well, I'm 28, and I suck at dancing, so what's going on? Is my sperm count low?

  4. Y'know, there's plenty of opportunity for quality work do be done in applying evolutionary modeling outside biology, incl psych, sociology and linguistics. Too bad most people engaged in that a) know fuck-all about evolution; and b) know fuck-all about scientific reasoning; and sometimes c) take advantage of the hype to move ahead in their careers because they have no other means of doing so.

    Linguistic evolution is perhaps among the more mature and sensible such fields, and even there they're oblivious to how evolution really works. But then again, so are most biologists, it seems...

  5. Larry, Larry, Larry,

    Oh how naive your understanding of the mighty Evolutionary Psychology is. This Hertforshrire psychologist is so wrong and you should know it.

    The reason we dads are so bad at dancing is because, like the peacock's tail, we are carrying a massive hinderance. Our crap dancing is an advert: we fertile, successful males can still produce offspring with a nice young viable partner despite the fact that we dance like morons. We're that good. This, of course, means that the young nubile women flock to our beer bellies and bald spots, hankering for some loving.


    Ok maybe not.

    But seriously, I love this "evolution would act to..." stuff. It's a brilliant litmus test for someone who has clearly missed the point and clearly doesn't understand evolutionary biology. I'm just going to nip over to Hertfordshire with a rolled up newspaper and whap this chap on the nose a few times and say "No! No!" Look what you've done! You've spread teleology everywhere! Naughty! Naughty!". A firm tone and a sunday supplement is the only language these people understand.


  6. ugh. I'm not a woman but I'm repulsed nonetheless.

  7. Wow. I'm truly stunned. This has got to be the stupidest EP thing I've ever heard.

  8. 50+ guys trying to repel young women ? In what world ?