A former colleague of mine used to assess potential hires on the basis of how quickly they walked, reasoning that a brisk walking style would reveal an industrious and focused mind. Similarly, if they ambled he felt they lacked purpose. Whilst it wasn’t his only selection criteria his ‘walking coefficient’ proved an effective personality indicator.
Therefore I wasn’t surprised to read recent research completed by Yannick Stephan and colleagues at both the University of Montpellier and Florida State University who found that several personality traits are most strongly linked to walking quickly.
They observed the walking gait of over 15,000 people between 25 and 100 years of age in Winsconsin, USA and compared to their personality test results. They found that fast walkers are more likely to be extroverted, conscientious and open to new experiences and also did not slow down as much as they got older. They concluded:
“Extroversion and conscientiousness were the most consistent personality correlates of walking speed. Active and enthusiastic individuals and those with self-discipline and organization walked faster at follow-up and declined less in gait speed over time in the HRS. This study provides robust evidence that walking speed in adulthood reflects, in part, the individual’s personality.”
Conversely people who walk slowly tend to be more neurotic as the study’s authors explain:
“…slower gait is predictive of a range of deleterious outcomes, including poor mental health, higher risk of incident functional limitations and disability, impaired cognition and incident dementia, and ultimately higher mortality risk.”
So, if you see someone walking quickly they are likely to be on the way to somewhere else mentally as well as physically.
Read more about the study as reported in the excellent Psyblog
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