This week I have been continuing to work on my project and observing the way different people are walking. I did some research and found out that psychologists have been studying these assumptions for well over three quarters of a century, and their findings suggest that most of us do tend to make very similar interpretations of other people’s personalities based on their walking style.
One of the earliest investigations was published in 1935 by German-born psychologist Werner Wolff. He filmed five men and three women without them knowing, as they took part in a ring-throwing task while wearing overalls. When the participants watched back the films, which had been edited to hide their heads, they readily formed impressions of each other based on their walking style and there was often a lot of agreement in their judgments. Some of the descriptions given independently by the participants for one subject were:
“Pretentious, with no foundation for it.”
“Somebody who wants to gain attention at any price.”
“Conscious and intentional vanity, eager to be admired.”
“Inwardly insecure, tries to appear secure to others.”
“Dull, somewhat subaltern, insecure.”
It seems amazing that the participants formed such similar impressions for this subject and others.
In the late 1980s found that there are broadly two kinds of walks: the more youthful one and the older style movement. The former involving a more bouncy rhythm, more swaying of the hips, larger arm swings and more frequent steps, while the latter was stiffer and slower with more leaning forward. Crucially, the gait did not necessarily correspond to the walker’s actual age – you could be young with an old gait and vice versa. Furthermore, the observers assumed that people who walked with a younger style were happier and more powerful. This remained the case even when their actual age was made apparent by revealing their faces and bodies.
I recorded people walking back and forth in the microstudio. One thing I noticed is how people’s walk changes when they know they are being filmed and I think that’s really interesting and says something about them depending how much they change and in what way.