Is threat in the way they move? Influences of static and gait information on threat judgments of unknown people

Liam Paul Satchell, Harry Sebastian Mayes, Anthony J. Lee, Liam Christopher O’Reilly, Lucy Akehurst, Paul Morris

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Recognising intraspecies threat is essential for survival. However, this needs to be balanced against the undue avoidance of unknown others who may be useful to us. Research has shown that judgments of ‘aggression’ and ‘threat’ posed by an unknown person can accurately reflect that person’s general aggressive tendencies. To date, there has not been a within-sample comparison of the informativeness of static and walking stimuli for threat judgments. In this study, 193 participants rated the threat posed by 23 target people presented as both simplified gait presentations (point-light walkers) and still images. We analysed how threat judgments made by participants were predicted by the target’s self-reported aggression (accuracy), the sex of the targets and the medium of target presentation (point-light vs. still image). Our results showed that participants’ threat judgments accurately predicted targets’ aggression. Male targets received higher threat ratings than female targets and point-light displays were rated as more threatening than still images. There were no effects of target sex and presentation medium on accuracy of threat perception and no sex by medium interactions on judgments themselves. Overall, this study provides further evidence of the accuracy of threat judgments at detecting trait aggression. However, further research is needed to explain what features of the target people are enabling the accurate judgments of aggression.
Original languageEnglish
Number of pages8
JournalEvolutionary Psychological Science
Early online date22 Jun 2020
Publication statusEarly online - 22 Jun 2020


  • gait perception
  • aggression
  • threat perception
  • static images
  • walking stimuli


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