Worried about having your house broken into while you’re away—or, perhaps worse, while you’re in? Scared of the thought of being approached by a potentially criminally dangerous individual as you walk home at night? Don’t sweat it. With this guide you’ll be able to tell a criminal from a non-criminal far before it’s too late.
How Stereotyping Protects Us From Crime
Did you know that we humans naturally have the ability to determine who is and who is not a criminal simply by looking at them? Criminals appear different to us than non criminals, mostly thanks to stereotyping.
Many claim that stereotyping is discrimination and that it’s offensive and ignorant. The fact of the matter, however, is that stereotypes are almost universally empirically true, as is confirmed by research in evolutionary psychology. If stereotypes we’re not true, they wouldn’t exist.
Actually, that last point isn’t entirely accurate. There are two known incorrect stereotypes. The first is the idea that you can’t judge a book by its cover. The second is that beauty is not skin deep (beauty is actually far more complex than being skin deep). Outside of these two notable exceptions, however, the vast majority of stereotypes are spot on. One such stereotype is criminal stereotyping.
It was recently proved in a study published by the Journal of Social, Evolutionary and Cultural Psychology that people can determine criminals from non-criminals just by looking at a photo.
In the study, a group of people were shown photos of the faces of 32 men, all of whom were Caucasian and in their 20s. Half of the faces belonged to criminals, the other half to non-criminals. The participants were then asked, on a 7-point scale, how likely it would be for each man to be a criminal. The results clearly showed that the participants could accurately determine criminals from non-criminals. The results also made clear that participants had no ability to determine what type of criminals they were looking at. Then again, perhaps this is not without reason. Criminology states that criminals of one type will become criminals of another. Perhaps the participants recognised that the faces in the photos were simply not specific to one type of crime.
There is one exception to our ability to spot criminals: women cannot spot rapists. Time and again women participants indicated that real life rapists were less likely to be criminals. This may be due to the fact that most rapists are only able to rape once they have successfully fooled a woman into trusting them.
What we know for certain is that humans have a very high accuracy of criminal stereotyping. And what that means, it that the next time you see a face you don’t trust, you’d do well to listen to your gut instinct.
So, we know now that we are able to determine a criminal by looking at their face. But what about when we can’t make out a person’s face? What about when we can only make out the general outline of their body and the way they are moving?
Using Body Language To Spot Criminals
In these instances we must make use of an understanding of body language. Body language has been used by crime units to determine the likelihood of an individual being a criminal. There are many different criteria by which this judgment is made.
Learn to look out for the following body language signs. Criminals and other unscrupulous individuals are likely to reveal themselves through the following body language:
The Body Language Signs of Criminals
- Clenched fists – indicates anger
- Hands hidden – indicated the individual has something to hide
- Chin pushed forward – shows anger and readiness to fight
- Arms crossed – minor indication of insecurity and fear of being caught
- Head held low or hidden – criminal is attempting to hide himself
- Nibbling on lips – a sign of worry and fear, perhaps of being caught
- High voice when speaking – shows fear
- Quick, darting gazes – shows a desire to look at something (e.g to scan the scene) without being seen doing so.
- Freezes when you look their way – shows fright / nervousness
- When you are near they tuck their chin into their chest – this is a self protection gesture that suggests the criminal may be preparing to fight
- Showing upper teeth – strong sign of anger, steer clear of this individual
Note: no one body language gesture can be used to make a read on a person. It’s only when an individual shows many of these body language signs that there is cause for alarm
These body language signs are related to emotions. Criminals are most likely to be experiencing either anger (which is leading them to commit the crime) or fear (of being caught), so these two emotions become warning signs for others. The body language signs above will allow you to tell when a person is experiencing these two emotions, in which case you would do well to steer well clear of them as they may be about to commit a crime.
Use these facts of body language and stereotyping to help protect yourself
By using a combination of stereotyping and body language reading we become able to determine when a person is a) a criminal and b) likely to commit a crime or act in a dangerous way. With these tools we can significantly help to protect ourselves from criminal activity.
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