“Don’t be a victim.” That’s a phrase you’ll hear a lot if you take a crime-prevention class, or if you befriend J.J. Bittenbinder. Basically, it means that there are steps you can take to reduce the likelihood that you’ll be mugged, assaulted, or otherwise attacked. Don’t wave wads of cash around like you’re in Brewster’s Millions. Don’t space out on the subway. Walk with a purpose.
That last one is particularly important, because according to a new study from the Journal of Interpersonal Violence, some criminals are very good at sensing weakness based on the way you walk. In the report titled “Psychopathy and Victim Selection: The Use of Gait as a Cue to Vulnerability,” the authors surveyed 47 inmates at a maximum-security prison in Ontario and found that social predators are very good at picking victims based on their gait—their posture and their stride.
The authors secretly filmed 12 people walking—eight women and four men, some of whom had been attacked before. Then, they showed the footage to a group of inmates, some of whom exhibited interpersonal traits commonly associated with psychopathy—manipulativeness, a lack of empathy, superficial friendliness—and asked them whether or not each person would make a good victim.
These “victim ratings” were then compared against each person’s actual history of victimization. Sure enough, the people whom the psychopaths picked as “likely victims” were usually the ones who had been victimized in the past. These people were often said to have “walked like an easy target”—slowly, asynchronously, with short strides.
The sample size here is really small, so I’d caution against giving this study’s findings too much weight. Nevertheless, it reinforces something that seems pretty intuitive. Criminals aren’t looking for a challenge. Rather, they want someone timid and inattentive. So bound down the street like you own it. Your new, aggressive gait may deter criminals. And even if this study turns out to be total BS, you’ll still get where you’re going a lot faster. Everyone’s a winner!
TODAY IN SLATE
Meet the New Bosses
How the Republicans would run the Senate.
The Government Is Giving Millions of Dollars in Electric-Car Subsidies to the Wrong Drivers
Scotland Is Just the Beginning. Expect More Political Earthquakes in Europe.
Cheez-Its. Ritz. Triscuits.
Why all cracker names sound alike.
Friends Was the Last Purely Pleasurable Sitcom
This Whimsical Driverless Car Imagines Transportation in 2059
- Protesters Take to the Streets to Sound Alarm on Climate Change in New York, Across the World
- Knife-Carrying White House Jumper is Vet who Feared “Atmosphere Was Collapsing”
- North Korea: American Sentenced to Hard Labor Wanted to Become “Second Snowden”
- Almost One in Four Americans Support Idea of Splitting From the Union
Did America Get Fat by Drinking Diet Soda?
A high-profile study points the finger at artificial sweeteners.