I just stumbled across a very interesting study by Angela Book, Kimberly Costello, and Joseph A. Camilleri, who managed to explore how violent inmates choose their victims. The motivation for the study was built upon previous research that had explored the idea that a person’s gait (the way they walk and how they hold themselves) is likely to factor in when they are targeted by violent criminals, as it perhaps betrays a person’s vulnerability.
The authors include a statement from Bundy where he explains that he could tell a victim by the way she walked down the street, the manner in which carried herself, etc.
The study found that psychopathic criminals did tend to indicate gait as important for selecting a victim, but only if they scored highly on the Factor 1 part to the psychopathy checklist (PCL-R). There are a number of variations of this test, but one of the simplest is divided into two factors: Factor 1 measures personal characteristics, such as manipulating behavior, charm and charisma, and factor 2 measures aspects of an unstable lifestyle, such as impulsivity and antisocial behavior. So those scoring highly on the personal characteristics, the characteristics that trick us into liking and trusting them, were more likely to mention gait as an indicator of vulnerability.
The authors point out that a previous study exploring similar things found no such correlation, but the participants in that study were college students who exhibited some psychopathic traits, not seasoned criminals serving time in jail.
I found this study interesting for two reasons. Firstly, observing gait is most likely done while their is no personal interaction going on, i.e. you’re being studied and watched, probably without knowing it. And so then, secondly, psychopaths who score/would score highly on Factor 1 characteristics have probably already assessed you for weaknesses as they talk to, charm, and manipulate you throughout the course of the day.
The inmates in the study had to consciously express characteristics about victim-choosing, and so gait had to be realized. This is to distinguish it from the idea that these people are looking for certain weaknesses without really knowing what they’re doing. Obviously, with practice and success, checking a person’s gait would become second nature, but it appears to be a learned behavior.
Anyway, food for thought.
Copyright Jack Pemment, 2013