You probably already know that your body language broadcasts information about how you feel, but it turns out that even involuntary movements can say a lot about your personality. A new study suggests that the way you walk shows how aggressive you are. If you’re like me, you probably haven’t put a lot of thought into your walking style (beyond “one foot in front of the other”), but subtle variations in how people rotate their hips and torsos reveal how forceful (or non-forceful) they are in their actual lives.
The study, published in the Journal of Nonverbal Behavior, comes from psychology researchers at the University of Portsmouth, who studied the personalities and walking styles of 29 participants. The researchers evaluated subjects’ personalities by having them fill out a questionnaire alongside a “big five” personality test that measures five significant personality traits: Openness, conscientiousness, neuroticism, agreeableness, and extraversion. To assess their walking styles, the psychologists had the participants walk on a treadmill at a normal speed and used motion capture technology to study each individual’s gait.
They found that people with “exaggerated” walking styles tended to be more aggressive. “When walking, the body naturally rotates a little,” explained lead researcher Liam Satchel in a press release. “[A]s an individual steps forward with their left foot, the left side of the pelvis will move forward with the leg, the left shoulder will move back and the right shoulder forward to maintain balance. An aggressive walk is one where this rotation is exaggerated.”
Satchell said that this research confirms what many people already knew, remarking, “People are generally aware that there is a relationship between swagger and psychology. Our research provides empirical evidence to confirm that personality is indeed manifest in the way we walk.”
Satchell suggests that further research into the connection between a person’s walk and his or her tendency toward aggressive behavior could someday even be used “to help prevent crime.” He explained, “If CCTV observers could be trained to recognise the aggressive walk demonstrated in this research, their ability to recognise impending crimes could be improved further.” I have to admit that this last bit sounds to me like something straight out of Minority Report, but I’ll wait and see how this research develops before I start panicking about PreCrime just yet.