Studying what is creeping people out
We have all had interactions with people where we walked away uneasy. It’s not always clear what the person did to make us uncomfortable, but there was definitely something creepy about them.
In an effort to study the ambiguous experience we all share of being “creeped out,” psychology researchers Francis McAndrew and Sara Koehnke of Knox College surveyed more than 1,300 people to discover what behaviors and characteristics make a person appear creepy. What they found might help all of us avoid creepy behaviors when meeting new people.
Five behaviors associated with creepiness
The survey asked respondents to consider the following scenario: “Imagine a close friend of yours whose judgment you trust. Now imagine that this friend tells you that she or he just met someone for the first time and tells you that the person was ‘creepy.’”
Participants were then asked to rate the likelihood that the imaginary creepy person exhibited specific characteristics.
The survey showed that the top five behaviors associated with creepiness were:
1. Watching someone before interacting with them
2. Frequently touching someone
3. Steering a conversation toward sex
4. Asking to take a picture of someone
5. Asking for personal details about someone’s family
More than that, eye contact is a huge factor
In addition to the recognizably creepy behaviors above, the study showed that avoiding eye contact and showing too little or too much emotion could be unnerving for people.
However, your behavior might not be the only creepy thing about you. The survey also described the creepiest career and hobby choices, so you might want to avoid those topics when meeting someone new if you happen to work as a clown, taxidermist, or sex shop owner, or if you spend your free time collecting dolls, insects, or body parts.
And of course, mind your appearance
Your appearance is also a large factor in overall creepiness. Survey respondents were more likely to picture their friend’s creepy acquaintance as male rather than female, and they believed the person likely had greasy hair. So, men, make sure to wash your hair regularly if you don’t want to be a creep.