A new study on Creepiness.
Our study was unavoidably exploratory in nature, but we had a few hypotheses:
If creepiness communicates potential threat, males should be more likely to be perceived as creepy than females, since males are generally more violent and physically threatening to more people (see McAndrew, 2009).
Related to the first prediction, females should be more likely than males to perceive some sort of sexual threat from a "creepy" person.
Occupations that signal a fascination with threatening stimuli, such as death or "non-normative" sex, may attract individuals that would be comfortable in such a work environment. Hence, some occupations should be perceived as creepier than other occupations.
Since we hypothesize that creepiness is a function of uncertainty about threat, non-normative nonverbal behaviors and behaviors or characteristics associated with unpredictability will be positively associated with perceptions of creepiness.
Our study confirmed the following:
Perceived creepy people are more likely to be males than females.
Females are more likely to perceive sexual threat from creepy people.
Occupations do differ in level of perceived creepiness. Clowns, taxidermists, sex-shop owners, and funeral directors were at the top of the list.
Unpredictability is an important component of perceived creepiness.
A variety of non-normative physical characteristics and nonverbal behaviors contribute to perceptions of creepiness.
Participants did not believe that most creepy people realize they are creepy, nor did they believe that creepy people necessarily have bad intentions. However, they also believed that creepy people could not change.
The most frequently mentioned creepy hobbies involved collecting things, such as dolls, insects, or body parts such as teeth. Bones or fingernails were considered especially creepy; the second most frequently mentioned creepy hobby involved some variation of "watching," such as taking pictures of people, watching children, pornography, and even bird watching.