The first-ever study on “creepiness” is out. For the study, published in the journal New Ideas in Psychology, researchers asked 1,341 people, ages 18 to 77 years old, to complete an online survey about what they consider creepy. One of the main findings: Ninety-five percent of respondents said creepy people are more likely to be male, aka men are creepier than women.
The authors explain creepiness as the uneasy, confused feeling you get when you’re not sure whether or not you have a reason to be afraid. The ambiguity of creepy situations makes it hard to know how to react, but the study reports, “It would be considered rude and embarrassing to run away from an odd person who has done nothing overtly threatening, but, on the other hand, it could be perilous to ignore your intuition and remain in an interaction that is dangerous. This ambivalence leaves you frozen in place, wallowing in unease.”
The study found that most creepy people don’t know they’re creepy and women are more likely than men to consider creepiness a sexual threat. If you want to know whether you’re creeping people out on a regular basis, here are a few questions from the study to consider.
Do you often steer conversations back to one particular topic? This can be perceived as creepy, especially if the topic in question is sex. (Women find this creepier than men do.)
Do you watch people for a while before you approach them? They’ve noticed, and they’re thinking, “Why is that person staring at me?” They don’t find it flattering—they’re just creeped out.
Do you get all up in other people’s personal space? Standing too close is considered creepy and so are uninvited touches.
Do you have a creepy appearance? Creepy physical traits include greasy, unkempt hair; a weird smile; bulging eyes; long fingers and very pale skin. If you’re unusually thin, dress oddly or wear dirty clothes, it probably isn’t helping.
Do you take pictures of people you don’t know? If you ask to take a pic of a stranger, they’re probably going to find it creepy. Celebrities are used to this, but the average person considers it bizarre.
Do you ask questions people might consider “too personal”? If you asking people you barely know for personal details about their family, you’re probably earning creep points.
Are you a lot older than the people you’re interacting with? This one might not seem creepy on its own, but if you see yourself in several of the items on this list, your age makes you even creepier.
Do you have a creepy occupation? If you’re a clown, a taxidermist, a funeral director or the owner of a sex shop, it probably comes as no surprise that you rate highly on the creepiness scale.
Do you do creepy things for fun? The survey asked participants to list hobbies they find creepy. Many of them mentioned collecting things, especially if the collection includes dolls, spiders, insects, reptiles or teeth. Birdwatchers also give some people the creeps.
If you answered yes to several of these questions, chances are, someone out there considers you a total creep. It’s up to you what you want to do with that knowledge. Most of the survey respondents believe creepy people can’t change, so maybe all you can do is creep on creepin’ on.