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Social Motion Boosts Performance and Connection
By Jacob Taylor, PhD Student at the Institute of Cognitive and Evolutionary Anthropology at the University of Oxford; Emma Cohen, associate professor at the Institute of Cognitive and Evolutionary Anthropology at the University of Oxford; and Arran Davis, PhD Student at the Institute of Cognitive and Evolutionary Anthropology at the University of Oxford
Many of us know that physical exercise is good not only for our bodies but also for our ‘soul’. It can give us a unique psychological buzz, especially when we do it with others – just ask your nearest SoulCycle devotee or Tough Mudder initiate.
This buzz has long intrigued observers of human sociality. For more than a century, anthropologists have written about social bonding and community cohesion arising through what Émile Durkheim in 1912 called ‘collective effervescence’ – a euphoric unity generated when humans come together and move together, be it in religious ritual, music, dance, or sport.
This same buzz appears to be a natural performance-enhancer. Tough workouts can seem that little bit easier with the support of a good friend. In competitive sports, teams that ‘click’ perform beyond the sum of their individual parts, often punching well above their weight.
Decades after anthropologists first presented their ideas about social motion and cohesion, experimental studies using tools from the cognitive and behavioral sciences have begun to explain that buzz and its effects. Combining insights from evolutionary theory, anthropology, psychology, and biology, research suggests that coordinated group movement – what we call social motion – sets the stage for the changes in brain chemistry often associated with altered perceptions and beliefs. This altered state of consciousness impacts the sense of pain and fatigue that is so key to athletic performance, as well as the sense of self and others at the root of social bonding.
Social motion comes in many forms across cultures and contexts – exercise, dance, ritual, labor, and play – but it is universally characterized by two components: coordinated movement and physical exertion.
Evidence suggests that synchronizing movement with others leads to feelings of togetherness or ‘oneness’ – perhaps because the intentional act of coordinating with another person necessitates sharing mental states. To row a boat down the river, the individual ‘I’ must become the collective ‘we’.
Other research indicates that physical exertion can lead to the release of endorphins and endocannabinoids . These are our body’s natural morphine and cannabis, responsible for feelings of well-being during sustained bouts of exercise. Extremes of these psychological states are colloquially known as the ‘runner’s high’.
To test the mechanism and nature of the bonding that being social bestows, our team ran a series of experiments . In one, we manipulated the two core components of social motion – synchrony and physical exertion – in groups of rowers who were positioned side by side on rowing machines. We found that, regardless of synchrony, groups who rowed at the intensity ‘sweet spot’ for experiencing the positive buzz of exercise cooperated significantly more in a post-exercise economic game, compared with groups who exercised at a rate just under this threshold. Cooperation is an important marker of close relationships, indicative of more cohesive, bonded groups.
This result helps to explain why we often feel closer to friends after a night out dancing or a morning jog. In these activities, we share physical and mental states that are important for building and maintaining cooperative relationships.
Next, to test whether the buzz of camaraderie could change the way athletes feel and perform during exercise, we conducted an experiment with a highly bonded team of elite rugby players.
After warming up either synchronously or non-synchronously in pairs, we had athletes perform a strenuous sprint test on their own. On average, athletes who warmed up in sync with others were nearly seven seconds faster – a competitively meaningful increase in performance for a test that usually takes about four minutes. This result provides a basis for the wisdom that a highly bonded team is a better performing team.
Explanations for these effects can be traced back to our evolutionary past, when humans depended on close social relationships to survive and thrive – a situation that remains apparently true today. When we are cared for and supported, perhaps we are able to be a bit less cautious than when we are isolated and alone; we can pay less attention to pain’s protective reminders and invest more in the physically draining process of recovery from illness.
In the context of exercise, cohesive environments and their cues might lift the brakes on what our bodies can do, without us even knowing it – leading to decreased perceptions of pain and fatigue, and enhanced performance. These ideas are in line with research showing that high-fives, daps, and pound hugs translate to wins in competition and enjoyment during workouts.
Viewed in this light, national anthems, pre-game rituals, and fans cheering in unison all seem to act as a sort of social placebo , altering the optimal response to stressors such as illness and exercise. We are emboldened by the analgesic and fatigue-reducing buzz derived from these cues, likely via the same neurological pathways as placebo effects observed in medicine.
One of the most potent performance enhancers in sport, then, could be the buzz we get from supportive fans, friends, and family. Brilliant athletic feats – be they Stephen Curry’s anomalous three-point record, or Leicester City FC’s unbelievable outhouse-to-penthouse title run in the English Premier League – cannot be disentangled from their social environments. Likewise, the commercialized spirituality of fitness cults like SoulCycle and Crossfit harnesses the primal power of social motion for health and well-being, motivating adherence to an activity that is, at the end of the day, often unpleasant and painful.
The benefits of social motion might be crucial for a world in which a third of the adult population is chronically inactive and social isolation is on the rise. Our research indicates that a core component of collective physical activity is social connection – an evolved motivation to belong in communities where relationships are cohesive and supportive. Social motion can provide us with the buzz necessary to reverse cycles of social and physical inactivity, bringing us closer to one another, and closer to the physical and mental health we require to thrive.
Jacob Taylor , PhD, at the Institute of Cognitive and Evolutionary Anthropology at the University of Oxford. His research explores the psychological links between group movement, social bonds, and human performance and well-being.
Emma Cohen , PhD, is an associate professor at the Institute of Cognitive and Evolutionary Anthropology and a fellow in human sciences at Wadham College at the University of Oxford. Her research explores the psychological links between group movement, social bonds, and human performance and well-being.
Arran Davis , PhD, at the Institute of Cognitive and Evolutionary Anthropology at the University of Oxford. He is interested in using evolutionary theory to understand human behaviour, especially placebo effects, perceptions of pain and enhanced physical capabilities.
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Doctor of Philosophy
Get your Ph.D. from one of the world’s premier training grounds for academic faculty and researchers in sport administration.
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- Sport Administration PhD
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UNC has one of the world’s oldest and most highly respected sport administration Ph.D. programs. Our groundbreaking sport administration program has been training exceptional researchers and teachers since the 1980s. You’ll get superior preparation for a faculty career, while building first-hand experience in applied research that has real influence within the sports industry.
UNC offers you broad freedom to pursue independent research, with strong guidance and mentoring from your faculty advisor. Because of our strong international reputation, you’ll meet fellow students from around the world. Our graduates have an outstanding track record in the academic job market, with faculty appointments throughout the United States and abroad.
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Ph.d. in sport and exercise science: sport administration.
UNC’s doctoral degree program requires 64 credits of coursework, including a set of core research courses that cover statistics, qualitative research and research methods. The program meets the professional guidelines set forth by the North American Society for Sport Management and the National Association for Sport and Physical Education.
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Our Ph.D. in sport administration is a research degree, designed for students who seek careers as college or university professors. In addition to building academic expertise in sport administration, you will develop excellent teaching skills, drawing on UNC’s traditional strength as an educator-training institution. You will enter the job market with well-rounded faculty skills that encompass research, academic publishing, curriculum development and classroom instruction. Alumni of our doctoral program in sport administration have a stellar record of faculty job placements.
Consider a Ph.D. in Sport Administration if you want to:
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UNC’s on-campus Sports Marketing Research Institute provides a unique outlet that enables you to gain hands-on experience in applied research. Working on behalf of sports industry clients who seek management assistance, you will have opportunities to solve real-world problems related to sport administration and management. Clients may seek help with pricing, public relations, sponsorship, licensing, marketing, customer satisfaction or other elements of sport administration.
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Who is Dr. Wilson?
Growing up, my brother Gabriel (the other Dr. Wilson) and I were inundated and surrounded by education. I can remember my parents making the biggest deal about even the smallest classroom accomplishments. Throughout school I had a knack for taking the most challenging topics and translating them to my peers in ways that just “clicked.” Perhaps this gift was the “how” to my “why” of changing lives. I was tasked with the mission to take the language of science that only the 1% (scientists and doctors) could understand and translate it so the other 99% could also access it.
My academic career has been a whirlwind of sorts. Having been blessed intellectually, I crushed through school like a hurricane. I graduated from high school in nearly two years and began my college career. At first, I was in Canada where I played junior hockey. Then I was in California where I completed my Bachelor’s degree in Nutrition Science. Following this, I completed my masters degrees focusing on exercise physiology and sport psychology. I ended my academic career with my doctorate from Florida State University with a focus on how nutrition interacts with training on both a cellular and molecular level.
What made me choose a path centered around health and human performance, you ask? If we rewind a bit, I was the middle child in my family – a family of three boys! My poor Mom. Our Dad had grown up a phenomenal athlete so sports were a large part of our lives. The sports I fell in love with were related to martial arts (I received my black belt in kajukenbo) and hockey, in which my idol was Wayne Gretzky. After graduating from high school I knew I had to put on muscle mass for junior hockey in Canada. After all, the average height and weight was around 6 foot and 200lbs, respectively (a number of inches and several pounds more than I weighed). In the process, I began researching the topic furiously. Having become obsessed with human optimization, I decided to dedicate my career to it.
In 2013, our lab was featured in the smash hit documentary, “Generation Iron.” The impact that movie had on shedding light on science opened my eyes. It made me realize that media could be a medium to reaching the 99%. We could effectively use modern-day technology to virtually bring individuals into our lab on a day-to-day basis. I knew that this dream could not happen within the confines of a University. Thus, after careful deliberation, we decided to pursue our dream and create the Applied Science and Performance Institute. In 2016 my business colleague, Dr. Ryan Lowery, and I built ASPI. A 21,000 square foot facility that is a virtual Disneyland of science for human performance and body composition.
My whole life I had put my head down and worked. Worked tirelessly with a purpose to empower others. To translate science into downloadable bits of information. Combined with amazing resources and a passion for changing lives, I want to bring you the tools to achieve your best version of you. Join me and The Muscle PhD community on this journey to transform yourself by the renewing of your mind and body.
Dr. Charlie Ottinger
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Jacob Crews scores 24 points and grabs 17 rebounds to lead UT Martin over Brescia 90-72
MARTIN, Tenn. — Jacob Crews scored 24 points and grabbed 17 rebounds as UT Martin beat NAIA-member Brescia 90-72 on Monday night.
Jordan Sears scored 19 points, shooting 7 for 12 for the Skyhawks (2-1). KK Curry had 13 points and was 3-of-4 shooting and 7 of 9 from the free-throw line.
The Bearcats were led in scoring by Gonzalo Luque, who finished with 19 points. Ksaun Casey added 16 points for Brescia. Taeron Hogg had 14 points, eight rebounds and two steals.
UT Martin plays Friday against Eastern Kentucky on the road.
The Associated Press created this story using technology provided by Data Skrive and data from Sportradar .
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Reds Select Rece Hinds, Christian Roa, Jacob Hurtubise
By Leo Morgenstern | November 14, 2023 at 4:22pm CDT
The Reds announced that they have added three players to their 40-man roster ahead of the 5:00 pm CT Rule 5 deadline: outfielder Rece Hinds , right-hander Christian Roa , and outfielder Jacob Hurtubise . Their 40-man is now full.
Hinds, 23, is the Reds’ No. 10 prospect, per MLB Pipeline , and most sources agree he’ll be ready to make his big league debut at some point in 2024. In 109 games with Double-A Chattanooga last season, he showed off his power potential, crushing 23 home runs and 58 extra-base hits. He ran well for a slugging outfielder, too, swiping 20 bags and legging out six triples. However, the righty batter also struck out in a third of his plate appearances, so he’ll need to improve his plate discipline if he wants to put his power on display at the major league level.
As for his defense, Hinds made the move from third base to the outfield in 2022, and he seems to have adjusted well. He has spent time in both corners, but his best asset is his powerful arm, so right field seems like the better fit. The Reds have a glut of talented young players all over the diamond, but there is less of a logjam in the outfield, so there should be room for Hinds if he cuts down on the strikeouts and keeps hitting bombs in the minors.
Roa, 24, struggled after his promotion to Triple-A last summer, seeing his strikeout rate fall and his home run rate rise. At the same time, the 2020 second-round pick showed off some phenomenal strikeout stuff in 2023, striking out 33.7% of batters faced in 13 starts at Double-A Chattanooga and 28.6% of batters faced in 15 games (12 starts) at Triple-A Louisville. If he can rein in the walks (16.6% walk rate across Double- and Triple-A), he could make his way to the majors at some point next season. Presumably, he will serve as rotation depth at Triple-A, something the Reds have no shortage of. In addition to Roa, the team has Lyon Richardson , Connor Phillips , Levi Stoudt , and Carson Spiers on the 40-man roster, all of whom made starts for the big league team in 2023 with limited success.
Hurtubise, 25, doesn’t have the prospect pedigree of either Hinds or Roa, but he might have been an appealing target in the Rule 5 Draft following his strong performance in 2023. In 83 games at Double-A, he slashed .306/.453/.492 with a 159 wRC+, and he kept mashing after a mid-August promotion to Triple-A, slashing .390/.537/.460 the rest of the way. While he is surely due for some significant regression, his plate discipline was genuinely impressive, and his speed is the real deal. He is primarily a corner outfielder, but he has experience in center as well, so he profiles as a fourth or fifth outfielder.
18 hours ago
Nice. I like all 3.
Assuming the plan is to convert Roa into a reliever? Get SO/9 rate, but that walk rate is ugly
Great arm but needs to learn to pitch. Keep your eye on him
17 hours ago
The eye in the sky spies primarily on the pie.
16 hours ago
Pretty much the guys they should protect, but I have no idea why Nick Senzel and Jose Barrero for two are still on the roster.
3 hours ago
So you know, Senzel is a 28 year-old former 1st round pick with options.Fangraphs still lists him as a FV 60 (prospect). His 2023 split vs LHP was .347/.389/1.008.He can defend 2nd, 3rd, & CF. with some power and speed. Projected to get about $3MM in arbitration for 2024- he has value. Barerro, still 25 years old, is pre arb but has no options left. Rated as a 55 FV prospect by Fangraphs, Jose has power, speed , can play ss and cf -but very little plate disipline. He too has value. Both are “change of scenery” trade candidates. I suspect 1 makes the Reds 2024 team and 1 gets traded. Neither would clear waivers if Reds would dfa them.
2 hours ago
No one is trading for someone that they know they will get for free eventually.
Everyone talks about Senzel’s record against lefties, but that is a narrow slice as lefties don’t face them most of the time. Senzel hit .236 overall in 2023 and .239 career which was not that great.
If those guys are on the 2024 roster, then it means Po Boy didn’t do a damn thing to improve the club, which is entirely possible given his history.
7 hours ago
The AA leagues used a special pre-tack substance baseball. While AAA was a standard ball without pre-tack. Most pitchers lost 3+ inches of movement on their sliders/sweepers/curves when promoted (AAshby being the best 2023 example)…
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Sharks' Jacob MacDonald: Out at least one week
MacDonald (undisclosed) will be out for a minimum of one week, coach David Quinn told Max Miller of The Hockey News on Wednesday.
MacDonald, who was put on the injured reserve list Wednesday, also missed the start of the campaign because of an undisclosed injury. He made his season debut Thursday but lasted just two contests before going out of the lineup again. MacDonald is likely to serve in a third-pairing role and receive power-play ice time when he returns.
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2025 TN DT Carter Has Great UNC Visit For Victory Bell Game
Class of 2025 defensive tackle Tony Carter, Jr. was one of many recruits that attended the North Carolina's double-overtime 47-45 win over Duke in Kenan Stadium on Saturday night.
The 6-foot-1, 279-pounder from Lipscomb Academy in Nashville, TN, was offered by the Tar Heels in June. Carter, a 3-star prospect, is currently ranked as the No. 22 player in the Volunteer State.
He also has offers from Georgia Tech, Illinois, Louisville, Marshall, Maryland, Memphis, Oklahoma State, Purdue and several others.
THI reached out to Carter and get the latest on his trip to Chapel Hill:
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Chelyabinsk meteor explosion over Russia 10 years ago was a planetary defense wake up call
10 years ago today, the Chelyabinsk meteor explosion showed why we need better methods of detecting and tracking near-Earth asteroids.
On Feb. 15, 2013, Paul Chodas, manager of the Center for Near-Earth Object Studies (CNEOS) at NASA's Jet Propulsion Laboratory (JPL) in California, was preparing for a NASA TV segment on the flyby of a near-Earth asteroid, 2012 DA14, which was expected to zoom within 17,200 miles (27,680 kilometers) of Earth.
During this prep work, Chodas was sent a YouTube clip of a large fireball exploding in the skies over Chelyabinsk, a city in the Ural region of Russia.
Chodas was skeptical at first. "Initially, there was a lot of confusion. People thinking, 'Oh, we got our prediction wrong.' And I assured them no, we knew exactly where that asteroid was, and it was passing through the GEO [geostationary] belt. But this Chelyabinsk asteroid was just an entirely independent event coming from a different direction," Chodas told Space.com.
As it turned out, the videos Chodas was sent showed a 59-foot (18 meters) near-Earth asteroid exploding in the atmosphere after surprising scientists by coming from the direction of the sun, a blind spot for telescopes and other sensors on the ground. The resulting explosion caused millions of dollars of damage throughout Chelyabinsk and injured thousands of residents across an area hundreds of miles wide. Most injuries were caused by broken glass, although hundreds of Chelyabinsk residents suffered eye damage from the blast that briefly lit up the skies more brightly than the sun. A few dozen reported burns from the intense ultraviolet radiation caused by the blast.
Related: See photos of the Chelyabinsk meteor explosion
Ten years later, the Chelyabinsk meteor explosion and the damage it caused underscore the need for asteroid-tracking telescopes such as NASA's NEO Surveyor , planetary defense missions such as the Double Asteroid Redirection Test , and research organizations like the CNEOS . While there are currently no known asteroids that are on a collision course with Earth, unexpected objects routinely crash into the atmosphere with only a few hours notice . And in the case of Chelyabinsk, sometimes asteroids can arrive undetected through blind spots in our detection capabilities.
Related: Planetary defense: Protecting Earth from space-based threats
Nevertheless, there is no need to lose sleep because of the asteroid threat. "There are no known large asteroids which have any significant chance of hitting the Earth," Chodas assured us.
After the Chelyabinsk meteor exploded, infrasound sensors designed to detect nuclear detonations helped scientists determine that the blast was indeed incredibly powerful. "This was a big event, the largest one we've ever actually measured," Chodas said. "On our fireballs page, which measures all the major impact events, this was by far the largest. So that was just an amazing experience, I have to say."
Initially, the explosion was estimated to be between 300 and 400 kilotons, but more recent estimates put the size at 500 kilotons. By comparison, the Fat Man nuclear warhead dropped on the Japanese city of Nagasaki during World War II had a yield of 21 kilotons.
Chodas added that it's fortunate that the event was initially recognized for what it was and not misconstrued as some sort of military event. Chelyabinsk Oblast, the administrative region of which the city of Chelyabinsk is the seat, is home to the All-Russian Institute of Technical Physics , one of two facilities in Russia that manufacture nuclear weapons.
"But of course, it was way bigger than you would expect from any sort of attack on the city. So I think I'm happy that that was the initial reaction, and that the correct initial reaction was that it was a natural event," Chodas said.
Read more: Russia meteor blast is biggest in 100 years
While Chelyabinsk was indeed a natural event, the sheer size of the meteor makes it stand out among the many smaller impacts that occur routinely in the atmosphere. While smaller meteor impacts and fireballs are somewhat common, impacts such as Chelyabinsk or the Tunguska event 100 years prior are far rarer due to the fact that larger objects are exponentially less common throughout the solar system than smaller ones.
"It all depends on what size you're talking about," Chodas said. "I mean, small objects hit us every day. You can go out and see meteor showers, and those are little pebble-sized objects, which are extremely numerous. That's why those impacts are common. And that's a hard thing to understand. As you go up to larger and larger sizes, the impacts become less and less frequent. And that's an exponential drop off, by the way. So that's important to understand."
Chodas added that, despite the frequent headlines that sensationalize any "close" pass by an asteroid, the distances that fall under the definition of near-Earth can be misleading. For example, an asteroid called 2005 YY128 will pass by Earth on Feb. 15 at a distance of 2.8 million miles (4.5 million km), an encounter that has generated a fair amount of media buzz but presents no danger to us at all.
"That's only astronomically close," Chodas said. "So the important thing, hopefully, for the public to understand is that a lot of these close approaches are quite distant. And we know the trajectories very precisely." Chodas added that 2005 YY128 has been tracked by CNEOS for 17 years and its orbit has been accurately predicted to within 100 miles (160 km). "So there's just no chance that it could pose a hazard," Chodas added.
Read more: Russia meteor blast was largest detected by nuclear monitoring system
One reason for these constant headlines is the fact that NASA and other space agencies are detecting asteroids and other space rocks at a much more frequent pace thanks to several initiatives the agency has undertaken in recent years.
The asteroid "discovery rate has dramatically increased," Chodas said.
— After DART's incredible asteroid impact, the science is only beginning
— How big is the asteroid threat, really?
— Just how many threatening asteroids are there? It's complicated.
Projects like NASA's upcoming NEO Surveyor asteroid-hunting telescope will help identify and track these objects with greater sensitivity than before. Using infrared sensors, the space telescope will be able to search for multiple near-Earth objects at once. "I like to make the analogy that searching for asteroids is like fishing in the ocean," Chodas said. "And really, if you want to catch more fish, you need a bigger net."
Current NEO detection and tracking capabilities aren't quite sensitive enough to spot distant objects, but NEO Surveyor should help remedy that, enabling NASA to detect and catalog asteroids at much farther distances than current technologies enable. "And that's a really important goal, because our biggest, strongest defense against an asteroid impact is to discover the asteroid early. And to do that, you need a next-generation capability," Chodas explained.
NEO Surveyor is scheduled to launch in June 2028. For more information on near-Earth objects and efforts to study and catalog them, visit the CNEOS website .
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Brett is curious about emerging technologies, alternative launch concepts, anti-satellite technologies and uncrewed aircraft systems. Brett's work has appeared on Scientific American, The War Zone, Popular Science, the History Channel, Science Discovery and more. Brett has English degrees from Clemson University and the University of North Carolina at Charlotte. In his free time, Brett enjoys skywatching throughout the dark skies of the Appalachian mountains.
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