Hip Hop Dance

Want to sharpen your cognitive abilities? Maybe try taking up hip hop dance.

According to a new study, gaining experience in hip hop dance may improve certain social and cognitive skills.

The idea for the research came from previous work showing that developing expertise in a given area can sharpen the mind more generally. For example, pastimes like chess and video games have been linked to improvements in learning and memory.

So what about hip hop?

To find out more about hip hop dance’s impact on cognitive abilities, researchers had dancers with varying levels of experience complete a range of tasks that assessed different cognitive abilities like working memory and mental image rotation.

When the data was in, it turned out that dancing experience correlated with a couple different cognitive skills.

First, dancers with more experience were faster at rotating images of hands mentally. The researchers point out that since mental image rotation is an ability that relates to success in scientific and technical fields, this result suggests a possible role for hip hop dance in improving science and math skills.

Dancers with more experience also tended to be better at recognizing positive emotions in images of human faces. It could be, then, that hip hop dance confers some benefits in social cognition.

One implication of these findings is that hip hop dance might have some advantages in the context of education. Specifically, gaining experience in hip hop dance could improve some of the underlying abilities that help students succeed in school, both in science and math classes and in social settings.

In the words of the authors, hip hop dance, like some games and other spatial activities, might “tap some specific cognitive abilities that underlie STEM skills.” If that’s true, it raises the possibility that “hip hop dance experience can be used to reach populations who may not otherwise be interested in other kinesthetic or gaming activities and potentially enhance select sociocognitive skills.”

Image: Flickr/Hernán Piñera under CC BY-SA