The idea that someone’s walk is reflective of their personality is not necessarily new, but one that has limited empirical support. This support has recently grown slightly less limited thanks to some recent findings suggesting that a person’s level of aggression can be expressed in their walk.
The group of participants was small, only numbering 29, and each was given a personality assessment using a questionnaire and a standard personality test known as the “big five”. Afterwards, the participants were recorded using motion capture technology as they walked on a treadmill at their natural speed.
Not (entirely) surprisingly, the University of Portsmouth researchers found that exaggerated movements in the upper and lower body during a walk were correlated with higher ratings of aggression. The body undergoes natural rotations when you walk from the movement of the pelvis and the legs in order to maintain balance. These motions are more exaggerated in “aggressive” walks.
This is technically “groundbreaking” work, since the researchers don’t know of other instances where a person’s gait has been correlated to self-reported personality measures. At minimum, it gives an empirical backing to some conventional perceptions and suggests other research into automatic movements and personality could be fruitful.
On a more chilling note, lead researcher Liam Satchell also suggests the knowledge could be used to monitor people. He gives the example of CCTV observers being trained to profile “aggression” and direct police attention towards them.
Satchell, L., et al., “Evidence of Big Give and Aggressive Personalities in Gait Biomechanics,” Journal of Nonverbal Behavior, 2016; 10.1007/s10919-016-0240-1.
“New study finds link between walk and aggression,” University of Portsmouth web site, September 13, 2016; http://uopnews.port.ac.uk/2016/09/13/new-study-finds-link-between-walk-and-aggression/, last accessed September 13, 2016.