Often in crowded cities, we clash with those who walk much more slowly, or we hold up those who walk faster. Is there an explanation for this variation?
According to a team of researchers, personality traits may help predict how quickly or slowly we will walk. In a creative study, published in Social Psychological and Personality Science, Dr. Yannick Stephan and his team looked at over 15 thousand individuals, tracking how quickly they walked and also measures of traditional personality traits like extraversion and neuroticism.
We rarely talk about walking speed, but isn’t it an important nonverbal behavior?
While past research has connecting walking speed to health, there are also compelling connections between personality traits and health. For instance, those high in neuroticism and low in extraversion tend to exercise less frequently and be in poorer health. While gait speed might not sound that important, this study attempts to further explore the relationship between our physical health and our personality.
For context, the researchers utilize a measure of five personality traits that has long been common in psychology. This includes neuroticism (a disposition towards negative emotions), extraversion, openness to new experiences, conscientiousness (a measure of organization and self-discipline), and agreeableness.
It might be suspected that data on gait speed would be hard to come by, but amazingly the researchers employed an incredible treasure trove of information on individuals’ personality traits and walking speeds. Some of this was even longitudinal, allowing an understanding of these relationships over time.
Overall, they found that personality features successfully predict walking speed, even when measured years before. They tended to find similar relationships even between different samples and age/demographic groups.
Extraversion and conscientiousness consistently predict higher walking speeds. This may seem intuitive, if we imagine an extraverted friend or someone who is quite self-disciplined. However, the opposite was true of neuroticism which declined more steadily over time and was associated slower gait speeds initially.
These findings are consistent with previous research finding the same connections between those personality types and health. By seeing how this is manifest in gait speed, a great deal of information can be inferred and further explored about how we express our personalities. Gait speed can then be used as a reliable predictor for both health and personality type, benefitting researchers, patients, and diagnosticians alike.
While this might seem a bit far afield from Humintell’s usual work, it really isn’t. Gait speed can be seen as an important nonverbal behavior!
Can you attempt to read people based on their pace? Rather than being in a hurry, they might just be really extraverted!