The Nae Nae Passes Science's Test for Sexy Dance Moves


In 2015, cool teen and rapper Silentó took over the internet with his catchy AF single “Watch Me (Whip/Nae Nae).” People nae-naed all over the place with a thrust and a wave of the arm, paired with a sliding body bop. Even Hillary Clinton was pressured to trot out her nae-nae on national television in an attempt, like everyone else trying the dance move, to seem hip and likable. Now, new research suggests that nae-nae attempters also come across as very sexy, whether they mean to or not.

According to new research published Wednesday in Scientific Reports, certain dance moves have been scientifically verified as the hottest. If you want to want to appear desirable, then you have to include the moves that are at the heart of the nae nae: A big hip swing, asymmetric thigh movements, and asymmetric arm movements.

It’s important to note that, so far, the science only supports women showing off these moves to men. To come to this conclusion, the Northumbria University scientists behind the research carried out a two-part study: First, 39 heterosexual women ages 18 to 30 had reflective markers strapped to their elbows, ankles, wrists, and legs and were instructed to dance. None of these women were professional dancers; they were just told to do their own thing for 30 seconds while their body movements were recorded with a 12-camera optical motion capture system.

This motion capture data was used to create and animate faceless, featureless virtual avatars. Then, 57 men and 143 women were brought in to judge 15 seconds of dancing from each avatar. After the raters judged each avatar’s dance moves, the researchers calculated the mean rating awarded to each dancer, and then the raters were asked, once again, to judge the five highest- and lowest-ranked dancers. This way, they able to pull out the most common and most appealing dance moves from the highest-ranked avatars.

This is one of the best scored avatars:

Get it girl.

Northumbria University/Giphy

And this is one of the worst scored:

Oh no.

Northumbria University/Giphy

The researchers found that the male raters described the avatars that danced the best as appealing in a sexualized way, while the female raters saw the avatars with the best moves as worthy competitors for mates.

This data is in line with the team’s previous work that looked at what makes male dancers attractive. In that study, they found that men who were more “risk-taking” and danced with a “stronger handgrip” were judged to be the most attractive.

While it’s fun to have the science to back up what moves you should use to back up on the dance floor, the scientists stress that this research comes with important implications. Dance, they say, plays a part in human courtship, and if we can better understand what aspects of dance people like, then we have a better understanding of what it means to be human. When people see a dance move, they are subconsciously taking in information about the health and vitality of the individual. A dance move isn’t just a dance move — it’s a chance to judge someone’s fine motor skills.

“The way that you move is very crucially linked to your health, your hormonal status and your personality and also possibly things like intelligence and creativity,” lead author and psychologist Nick Leave, Ph.D., told The Guardian. “You are seeing someone move and you are able to interpret an awful lot about that person from the way that they move.”

But even if you can’t do the nae nae, don’t worry and keep dancing for yourself. Even though you may not be pulling in any sexual partners, dancing is scientifically proven to improve people’s moods and cognitive abilities.

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