10 Things to Know About the Psychology of Dance

Dance is a universal form of human expression that transcends cultural boundaries. It’s been a part of human history for centuries. While the act of dancing is fun and beautiful, its role in the world is so much bigger than that. Beyond its aesthetic and rhythmic aspects, dance also holds a significant place in the realm of psychology. Researchers have delved into the cognitive, emotional, and social dimensions of dance, shedding light on its profound impact on the human psyche. Interested in learning more about dancings relation to psychology? Keep reading as we explore 10 key aspects of the psychology of dance including fascinating insights from various studies and researchers.

Dance can be used as a nonverbal communication tool.

Dance serves as a powerful means of nonverbal communication. According to researchers like Susan Loman and Raquel Chapin Stephenson, dance can convey emotions, intentions, and stories without the need for words. It provides a unique channel for individuals to express themselves and connect with others on a deep emotional level.

Mirror neurons in our brain play a large role in dancing.

Mirror neurons, discovered by Giacomo Rizzolatti and his colleagues in the 1990s, play a crucial role in our ability to understand and imitate the movements of others. Dance activates these mirror neurons, allowing us to empathize with dancers and even mirror their movements to some extent. This phenomenon contributes to the social and emotional aspects of dance, making it so much more than simply a physical activity.

There are psychological benefits to dancing.

Did you know that numerous studies have highlighted the psychological benefits of dance? Research by Anna Duberg and others has shown that dance can:

  • reduce symptoms of anxiety and depression
  • enhance self-esteem
  • improve overall well-being.

Engaging in dance can lead to the release of endorphins, promoting feelings of happiness and relaxation.

There is a connection between dance and body image.

Dance has a complex relationship with body image. While it encourages a strong connection between the mind and body, it can also lead to body dissatisfaction in some individuals, especially in competitive dance settings. Research by Marika Tiggemann and Levina Clark, which can be read here, underscores the importance of promoting a positive body image in the dance community with belly dancing as the main topic.

A flow state is often entered in dance.

Psychologist Mihaly Csikszentmihalyi introduced the concept of “flow,” a state of complete immersion and focus. Dancers often experience this state when they are fully engaged in their movements, losing track of time and self-consciousness. Additionally, achieving a flow state in dance can enhance performance and satisfaction.

Dance has cultural and cross-cultural aspects.

Dance is an activity done world wide, in a million different ways. With that you can likely see that dance is deeply rooted in cultural traditions. Cross-cultural studies, such as those by Cynthia Quiroga Murcia and Richard Parncutt, have revealed how dance varies across cultures. These studies highlight:

  • the cultural significance of dance
  • how it can convey cultural values and narratives]
  • the many different forms there are.

Dance can be tied to memory.

Did you know that dance can enhance memory and cognitive function? Research conducted by Kathrin Rehfeld and others has shown that dance, particularly in the form of dance-based interventions, can improve memory, attention, and executive function in both young and older adults. You can read more about Rehfield’s fascinating studies on how dancing improves brain function and memory here.

Dance is often used as a form of therapy.

Dance therapy, also known as dance/movement therapy, has gained recognition for its many therapeutic benefits. Pioneers in this field, such as Marian Chace and Judith Kestenberg, have explored how dance can be used in therapeutic settings to address:

  • psychological issues
  • trauma
  • emotional expression

For those struggling with their mental health, dance therapy may be the way.

Dance can promote social bonding.

In case you haven’t figured it out by now, dance is a pretty powerful activity. Dance even has the unique ability to foster social bonding and cooperation. Studies by Bronwyn Tarr and Robin Dunbar have examined the role of dance in creating social cohesion in groups. Dancing together can strengthen social connections and promote a sense of belonging.

There is a bright future for dance psychology.

Psychologists around the world understand dancing’s impact on the human brain. There is still so much more to learn. The field of dance psychology continues to evolve. Ongoing research explores new dimensions of dance’s impact on the human psyche. Researchers are using advanced technologies like brain imaging to better understand how dance affects the brain and emotions, paving the way for exciting discoveries in the years to come.


The psychology of dance is a rich and diverse field that encompasses cognitive, emotional, and social dimensions. Researchers and dancers alike continue to uncover the profound effects of dance on the human psyche, shedding light on:

  • its therapeutic benefits
  • its role in communication and cultural expression
  • its power to bring joy and fulfillment to individuals.

As the field of dance psychology continues to grow, we can look forward to even deeper insights into the intricate connection between mind and body through the art of dance. If you’re interested in learning more about every day things and activities that are tied to human psychology, be sure to check out the articles below. 

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