The word swagger doesn't just describe the biomechanics of a person's gait. Its very definition is often linked to confidence and aggression, suggesting that one's mood or even personality can be revealed in how they walk. Now, research in the Journal of Nonverbal Behavior suggests that certain personality traits can indeed be predicted in the way people move their upper and lower bodies while walking. "We know of no other examples of research where gait has been shown to correlate with self-reported measures of personality," the researchers say in a University of Portsmouth news release. After assessing the personalities of 29 participants, the UK team put them on treadmills and used motion-capture technology to look for even the subtlest exaggerations in body movements.
"We find that increased upper body movement (relative to lower body movement) can indicate latent aggression and increased lower body movement can relate to socially-facing traits (such as social skills and energetics)," lead researcher Liam Satchell tells Medical Research. It's a small study, and the researchers say they hope it leads to bigger ones to flesh out the subject. After all, says Satchell, a better understanding of body language could have broad implications, including in doctors' offices. He even suggests that observers of security cameras could be trained to spot worrisome gaits to ward off crimes—a prospect that leaves a blogger at Bustle feeling a little creeped out. (And if anyone is in need of a professional people-walker, this is your man.)