Researchers have discovered exactly what makes a person creepy

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Frank McAndrew and Sara Koehnke from Know College in Illinois specialise in ‘creepy’, and now, after a comprehensive study on the subject, they’ve co-authored a paper called On the Nature of Creepiness, which goes into great detail about all the factors that make a person creepy.

So, what does it mean to be a creepy person? Well, that’s what these intrepid researchers wanted to find out, so they asked 1341 people between 18 and 77 to list all the things that they thought made a person creepy, including their jobs, hobbies, mannerisms and behaviour.

The creepiest personality traits a person can have include:

  • standing too close to someone

  • having unkempt hair

  • smiling weirdly

  • dressing in odd clothes

  • having bulging eyes

  • having long fingers

  • having bags under eyes

  • licking lips frequently

  • laughing out of context

  • oversharing or talking loudly about uncomfortable topics, including sex

  • displaying unwanted sexual interest

  • asking to take a pictures of strangers

But being creepy is not limited to personality. Hobbies of the terminally creepy include collecting things such as dolls, insects and fingernails, or activities such as bird watching or other voyeuristic pursuits such as photography.

And what do creepy people do for a living? Well, being a clown topped the list (as if we didn’t already know that one!), followed by taxidermists, sex-shop owners, funeral directors and, believe it or not, taxi drivers. Unemployed people were sixth on the list of creepy occupations, which is ironic, as it’s not really an occupation, is it? Interestingly, writers were deemed the 11th creepiest occupation.

Oh, and men are creepier than women, but that may have been another no-brainer.

The study was published in New Ideas in Psychology and was undertaken to discover whether the feeling of being ‘creeped out’ could actually be quantified in some way. The results of the study were consistent with the hypothesis that a person’s ‘creep metre’ is ‘an evolved adaptive emotional response’ to the ambiguity of threat.

“Creepiness is all about not being able to figure out whether there is a threat,” said researcher Frank McAndrew.

Do you ever feel ‘creeped out’ by people? Can you explain why, even when it’s not so obvious? Do you think, in the modern world, creepiness is a lost art?

Read the full report (it’s really quite interesting)

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Written by Leon Della Bosca

Leon Della Bosca is a voracious reader who loves words. You'll often find him spending time in galleries, writing, designing, painting, drawing, or photographing and documenting street art. He has a publishing and graphic design background and loves movies and music, but then, who doesn’t?



Total Comments: 18
  1. 0

    The stand so close person whose breath can be felt (shudder..shudder) on the back of your neck…..He almost received an elbow in the gut, and the pointy end of an umbrella on his foot.

  2. 0

    Funny Leon.
    My recollection of people who talk about “creepy” people is that it is almost always women. Never heard a man use the term before but acknowledge some may. Ok, I can see Germaine Greer lining up for a comment here……….

  3. 0

    You have forgotten furtive glances, drooling, excessive saliva stretched between lips when speaking, handling one’s own body parts unduly when in company of other people, and other gestures made by politicians – both male and female.

  4. 0

    Pedophiles, chiropractors and church ministers are creepy.

    • 0

      Chiropractors? Really? I thought these people just liked to get ‘back’ to work……..chuckle, chuckle. Got to get those smilie icons going leon.

  5. 0

    One person who really creeps me out is Tony Abbott…. Never met the man but there is just something about him… Can’t stand to look at him on TV interviews, etc, I have to turn away or change stations… Must be his mannerisms or something in his face… Can’t understand it but my skin crawls!

  6. 0

    Amadeoz, chriopractors are the only occupation where you are paid to jerk people around 🙂

  7. 0

    Staring at you without blinking

  8. 0

    Funnily enough there is a man in our neighbourhood who we believe is downright creepy. I believe he lives in a village nearby which provides room and board for 85% of the pension. Lovely little bed sit units…have had a look through them years ago.
    He wanders the streets, sometimes with a large broad brimmed hat but of late has been going without it. He walks in a very straight way and only his legs move and his arm stay straight at his sides. When you drive past him he turns and stars right “into” the car at the occupants.
    Saw him yesterday at the shopping centre, he walked in, stood still looked around, then turned and walked out. On part of me feels very sorry for him as I expect he is extremely lonely and one part of me is a bit wary of him. He is a tall thinnish chap about 40 I would say.



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