Tennis players’ grunts predict whether they will win or lose.

By Seriously Science | July 13, 2017 8:08 am
Photo: flickr/Tatiana

Photo: flickr/Tatiana

Tennis is one of the few sports where loud grunting is common. So common, in fact, that these researchers did a whole study on the information communicated by tennis grunts. Turns out that the pitch of these grunts conveys information about the player’s sex (obviously), but also whether the player is losing or winning. Intriguingly, “this difference in [pitch] between losses and wins emerged early in matches, and did not change in magnitude as the match progressed, suggesting a possible role of physiological and/or psychological factors manifesting early or even before matches.” In other words,  the outcome of the game may be determined very early on in the match, leading the players to grunt accordingly. Uunnh!

Tennis grunts communicate acoustic cues to sex and contest outcome

“Despite their ubiquity in human behaviour, the communicative functions of nonverbal vocalizations remain poorly understood. Here, we analysed the acoustic structure of tennis grunts, nonverbal vocalizations produced in a competitive context. We predicted that tennis grunts convey information about the vocalizer and context, similar to nonhuman vocal displays. Specifically, we tested whether the fundamental frequency (F0) of tennis grunts conveys static cues to a player’s sex, height, weight, and age, and covaries dynamically with tennis shot type (a proxy of body posture) and the progress and outcome of male and female professional tennis contests. We also performed playback experiments (using natural and resynthesized stimuli) to assess the perceptual relevance of tennis grunts. The F0 of tennis grunts predicted player sex, but not age or body size. Serve grunts had higher F0 than forehand and backhand grunts, grunts produced later in contests had higher F0 than those produced earlier, and grunts produced during contests that players won had a lower F0 than those produced during lost contests. This difference in F0 between losses and wins emerged early in matches, and did not change in magnitude as the match progressed, suggesting a possible role of physiological and/or psychological factors manifesting early or even before matches. Playbacks revealed that listeners use grunt F0 to infer sex and contest outcome. These findings indicate that tennis grunts communicate information about both the vocalizer and contest, consistent with nonhuman mammal vocalizations.”

Related content:
Parrot “laughter” is contagious.
Flashback Friday: On the purpose of saying “ow” when you hurt yourself.
Wild gorillas hum during dinner.

CATEGORIZED UNDER: duh, playing with balls
ADVERTISEMENT
  • Not_that_anyone_cares, but…

    And all this time we were taught that the grunt interfered with the sound of the ball striking the racket and helped to confuse the opposing player.

NEW ON DISCOVER
OPEN
CITIZEN SCIENCE
ADVERTISEMENT

Seriously, Science?

Seriously, Science?, formerly known as NCBI ROFL, is the brainchild of two prone-to-distraction biologists. We highlight the funniest, oddest, and just plain craziest research from the PubMed research database and beyond. Because nobody said serious science couldn't be silly!
Follow us on Twitter: @srslyscience.
Send us paper suggestions: srslyscience[at]gmail.com.
ADVERTISEMENT

See More

ADVERTISEMENT

Discover's Newsletter

Sign up to get the latest science news delivered weekly right to your inbox!

Collapse bottom bar
+