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

    Anonymous Contributors

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Description: 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. Such research has used photographs of faces, point-light presentations of movement and standard videos of people walking. To date, there has not been a within sample comparison of the informativeness of static and dynamic stimuli for threat judgments. This study investigated the effects of movement and body image information on the threat judgment accuracy of 193 participants. All judges rated the threat posed by 23 target people presented as both simplified dynamic 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). Additionally, we had access to data on the measurement of targets’ body shape (anthropometrics) and movement (biomechanics). With this data, we conducted exploratory mediation analysis (inspired by ‘lens modelling’) which quantified the extent to which body anthropometrics and gait biomechanics communicated target’s aggression to perceivers’ judgments. Our results showed that participants’ threat judgments 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 significant sex by medium interactions on judgments themselves. The coded anthropometric and biomechanic features in this study did not increase accurate judgments of aggression. 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.


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