Friday, June 9, 2017

What reveals of you the way you walk


If we see a man walking into a bar with a spit as John Wayne, we might assume that he is a self-confident person, the classic "tough one". In fact, we can’t help but draw conclusions about the personality based on small signs as the way of walking. It's not even a bad thing, it's a strategy we use unconsciously to know if we're safe or in danger. In practice, our senses constantly monitor the little clues that send others to send them to the brain that decides if it is a friend or an enemy, this process is the basis for forming the first impression.

One of the first researches on the way of walking and personality dates back to 1935. German psychologist Werner Wolff filmed five men and three women without their knowledge. Everyone wore a raincoat to prevent anyone seeing the video from drawing conclusions from clothes, and the images were also modified by eliminating the heads of the people.

Then the researchers asked a group of volunteers to see the video and try to imagine the personality of the walkers. The psychologist discovered in this way that the participants formed easily impressions on the others by the way they walked, and even more interesting: they often coincided with their judgments.

For example, some people described one of the walkers with phrases like "pretentious and unbiased", "someone who wants to attract attention at all cost," "a presumptuous person who wants to be admired" and "an insecure person pretending to look secure in front of others".

It is surely surprising that the participants formed similar impressions.

What do swaying hips mean?

Over the last few years, more sophisticated experiments have been carried out using digital technology, so that a person's walking path turns into a series of moving points on the screen, eliminating any further signal that can give us clues about his personality .

Using this approach, a group of American psychologists discovered at the end of the 1980s that there are basically two ways of walking: a younger and an older way of moving. The "young" movement implies a more vibrant rhythm, swaying hips, wide arms movements and longer footsteps, while the "old" implies hard and slower movements with a greater incline forward.

But the interesting thing is that these ways of walking do not necessarily correspond to the actual age of the person. External observers discovered that people who walked in a younger style were happier and safer, an idea that remained when they were shown their faces and bodies.

This research shows again how quickly we judge the others based on their way of walking, although this study has not proved that such hypotheses were true. To do this, we have to turn to another study published recently, in which the personality traits were compared with the hypotheses that people advanced by relying solely on the way of walking.

The results suggest once again that there are two styles, an expansive and free one related to an adventurous spirit, extraversion, reliability, and warmth; while the other style was slow and relaxed, which was interpreted as a sign of emotional balance. However, the surprise came later, because these features did not precisely describe people.

Therefore, the psychologists concluded that we are better judges based on the faces and the way we dress, but we can draw the wrong conclusions if we consider only the way of walking without having more details of the person.

Your way of walking can increase the risk of getting assaulted

In Psychology things are never white or black. In real life, we do not see a series of points on the computer that imitate the shape of walking but we see the person as a whole. Therefore, other studies have indicated that some people are able to detect a person's vulnerability by the way he is walking. The "vulnerable" style is characterized by a shorter step, a limited swing of the arm, and a slow walk. In fact, it has been noted that psychopaths are particularly good at identifying people who have suffered assaults in the past simply by looking at how they walk along a corridor.

It seems that detainees are particularly able to develop this ability and that many men use it to identify women with vulnerable personality, with traits such as introversion and emotional instability. In fact, some research suggests that when women do not feel secure in some places they tend to take longer steps, walk faster and move their arms more boldly.

Therefore, your way of walking can reveal some clue about your personality. However, attributing certain personality traits to a person based solely on his own way of walking can give us a distorted perspective by developing stereotypes that do not exactly match reality.

Sources:Gunns, R. E. et. Al. (2002) Victim Selection and Kinematics: A Point-Light Investigation of Vulnerability to Attack. Journal of Nonverbal Behavior; 26(3): 129–158.Doyen, S. et. Al. (2012) Behavioral Priming: It's All in the Mind, but Whose Mind? PlosOne.Argyle M. (1988) Bodily Communication. Londres: Routledge.Grayson, B. & Stein, M. I. (1981) Attracting Assault: Victims' Nonverbal Cues. Journal of Communication; 31(1): 68.Wolff, W. (1935) Involuntary self-expression in gait and others movements: An experimental study. Journal of Personality; 3(4): 327–344.


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What reveals of you the way you walk
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Jennifer Delgado Suárez

Psicologist by profession and passion, dedicated to to string words together. Discover my Books


Psychology as you never heard about...

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