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This article was written in August 2014 but it still holds true these days so I’d like to invite all of you to read it, for the first time or again. ()

Armwrestlers always try to dumbfound their opponent in different ways. They always keep eye contact when settling for a fight or let out scary sounds. There are also those who jump around on stage, shouting and waving their arms. Today, I want to focus on eye contact.

Are there any psychological reasons behind maintaining eye contact with your opponent?

Staring contest, so looking right in the eye of your opponent, is supposed to show someone their place. This is explained by evolutional psychology. If a rival lowers their eyes, they show subordination. This sort of mechanism was present not only among ancient warriors but also animals like chimpanzees.

Dominating your rival means your position in the pack or a given group becomes stronger and more significant, and there are different ways to do it like demonstrating strength, aggression, bravery etc. Only the one who dominates the group can be the alpha.

Is the staring competition a separate duel that we hold at the table aside armwrestling itself?

Staring competitions are common in sport, the best example might be weighing in before a fight when the rivals stand in front of each other, looking each other in the eyes. This is the first part of the fight – trying to dominate the opponent to weaken his confidence before a duel.

What can influence the choice of intimidation method, our predispositions or our opponent? In other words: should we study our rival and adjust our fighting methods or use those that we feel safer with?

First of all, the competitor has to be authentic so they have to use methods they feel good with and that can be effective.

What if the opponent is immune to our intimidation methods and picks up the fight?

In natural environments (for example in packs or indigenous communities), giving way to a stronger opponent was a method of survival by avoiding direct duel with them. This is also favorable for the stronger because they would lose strength on fighting people that are weaker, and then would be exhausted for the fights with more demanding opponents. Is the rival is not complying, they have to make them do it by force and so they fight. In sports, the fight always takes place but dominating the opponent plays the role of killing their mentality. It causes extreme muscle tension, brings about mistakes, anxiety or excessive respect. A very important aspect of dueling is the opponent’s mentality, not just their strength, technique or posture. That’s why the pre-fight is so important.

The answer was provided by Tomasz Folusz, psychologist, cognitive and behavioral psychotherapist, addiction therapist. He held classes in sports psychology, relaxation and motivation classes for chess coaches and worked closely with a few chess players.

Interviewer: Iza Małkowska

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