Capoeira: The Relationship of An Afro-brazilian Cooperative Movement Art to State Anxiety, State Self-Efficacy, And Prosocial Behavior Tendencies

Main Article Content

Brennan Delattre
Marcia L. Collaer


capoeira, cooperative movement, prosocial behavior, state anxiety, self-efficacy


Objective: Capoeira, an Afro-Brazilian movement art, incorporates elements of dance, martial arts, music, and physical improvisation between partners, comprising a social “game.” The sport has expanded globally from Brazil over the last several decades. However, the potential psychological benefits of capoeira have not previously been scientifically investigated. Inspired by research suggesting the benefits of exercise, meditation, yoga, and mindfulness practices, this pilot study investigated whether engagement in one session of capoeira was associated with altered state anxiety (SA), state self-efficacy (SSE), and prosocial behavior tendencies (PBT) compared to control activities of cooperative or combative movement or a non-movement control
(acro-yoga, savate, and a graduate-level mathematics class).

Methods: Capoeiristas (n = 117) and controls (n = 15) in the area of Rio de Janeiro, Brazil completed self-report questionnaires measuring SA, SSE, and PBT before and after a session of capoeira or control activities. PBT was subdivided into pain-specific (helping a person in physical need) and money-lending-specific (loaning funds to someone in need) behavioral tendencies. The various control groups were combined due to their small samples. Pre-post changes were analyzed and compared for capoeiristas vs. controls using mixed design ANOVAs.

Results: One session of capoeira corresponded to a significant decrease in SA and an increase in state self-efficacy (pre- to post- session); however, this change did not differ significantly from similar pre- to post- session changes observed for the control activities. In contrast, there was a significant interaction of time (pre-post) and activity (capoeira vs. controls) for both overall PBT,
F(1,120) = 11.32, P = .001, and pain-specific PBT, F(1,120) = 11.315, P = .0001. Specifically, while control participants appeared less likely to exhibit PBT after (vs. before) their sessions, no decrease in this behavior was observed after a session of capoeira.

Conclusion: While acknowledging limitations, such as the small samples and diverse nature of the control activities, this pilot study suggests the value of continued investigation into the potential effects of engaging in cooperative movement, such as capoeira, on certain psychological variables, particularly prosocial behavior tendencies. In addition to considering potential transient (state) effects, potential longitudinal effects of capoeira could also be of interest, as has been suggested for mindfulness and yoga practices.

Abstract 55 | PDF Downloads 65