Afraid to walk home at night in case you’re followed by some unscrupulous character wearing a hoodie? Worried that person skulking about next door might not be your neighbour’s son after all? Don’t sweat. It turns out we humans are naturally able to spot a criminal from a non-criminal, as this guide will reveal.
Humans, it turns out, are naturally able to spot a criminal from a non-criminal by subconscious stereotyping.
Stereotyping, of course, is a subject which is bound to cause debate. Many believe that stereotypes are nothing more than personal prejudices. But as evolutionary psychology has proven, stereotyping is actually a hugely accurate way of categorising people.
It has been scientifically proven that the vast amount of stereotypes are true. Stereotyping has been hugely important to personal survival throughout the course of history, becoming a evolutionary backbone in our psychological development.
It turns out that you really can judge a book by its cover, as was proven by a study published recently in the Journal of Social, Evolutionary and Cultural Psychology.
In the study, a group of participants were shown 32 photos of Caucasian males between the age of twenty and thirty. Half of the photos showed the faces of criminals and the other half non-criminals. Participants were asked to select, on a level from 1 – 7, how likely they thought each of the individuals in the photographs were to commit a crime.
The results were staggering, proving beyond any shadow of a doubt that humans are able to determine criminals from non-criminals merely by looking at their face.
There was one very interesting and perhaps worrying exception to this rule. It turns out that women are unable to determine rapists from non-rapists. It is believed that the reason for this is the fact that most rapists must come across as trustworthy people in order to find themselves in a situation where they are able to commit their rape. Still, the idea of not being able to determine a rapist from a non-rapist is rightly cause for concern.
Thankfully, while we may not be able to determine every sort of criminal merely by looking at their face, we are able to do so by studying their body language.
Body language and nonverbal communication has long been instrumental in criminal investigation, with numerous members of the FBI (including body language specialist Joe Navarro) famously using body language in interviews and investigations.
By learning to look for the same body language signs that criminal investigators look for, we enable ourselves to spot criminals and potentially dangerous individuals, thus protecting ourselves and our loved ones from harm.
The following is a list of the most important body language signs to look for when suspecting a person of criminal activity or malicious intent:
Clenching the fists – clear sign of anger
Hiding hands – is an important nonverbal communication gesture showing a willingness to remain hidden
Pushing the chin forward – a particularly aggressive gesture which could indicate willingness to fight
Crossed Arms – A sign of insecurity and defensiveness (most likely as the suspect wishes to remain withdrawn)
Nibbling lips – A pacifier gesture revealing nervousness
Tucking chin down into chest – A defensive gesture that could indicate that the suspect is protecting themselves while preparing to fight.
High voice – shows nervousness
Freezes when you look- shows fear, perhaps of being caught
Uses daring, quick gazes – shows nervousness and a desire to see without being seen
Covering up part of the body with an arm – may be hiding an object or weapon
Staring at the ground – wishes to be hidden
It is important when looking for these body language signs to remember that no one body language gesture means anything when it is seen in isolation. In other words, it is only when you see several of these body language gestures at or round the same time that you should have cause for concern.
The number one way of protecting yourself and your loved ones from crime is to be aware of potentially dangerous individuals. By trusting your instinct when seeing someone’s face (stereotyping) and by being aware of the important body language signs of criminality as discussed above, you enable yourself to spot criminals before it is too late.