Inherent Personality Traits Can Be Disclosed By Movement

A person’s movement can give a novel insight into their inherent personality traits, an innovative new study has shown. The finding could open up new avenues for health professionals to diagnose and treat mental health conditions in the future.

A team of experts, including from the University of Exeter, has shown that people who display similar behavioral characteristics tend to move their bodies in the same way.

The new study suggests that each person has an individual motor signature (IMS), a blueprint of the subtle differences in the way they move compared to someone else, such as speed or weight of movement for example.

Individual Motor Signature

Using a plain mirror game, in which two ‘players’ are asked to imitate each other’s movements, the team showed that people who have similar movements will tend to display more organized collective behavior.

The team, which also includes experts from the University of Bristol, Montpellier University and the University of Naples Federico II, believes that these findings indicate that people with comparable movement blueprints will therefore find it easier to coordinate with each other during interpersonal interactions.

The team also believe that a person’s IMS, and how they interact with others, could give an insight into their mental health condition, and so pave the way for personalized prediction, diagnosis or treatment in the future.

Professor Krasimira Tsaneva-Atanasova, who specializes in Mathematics in Healthcare at the University of Exeter said:

“Although human movement has been well studied, what is far less well understood is the differences each of us displays when we move – whether it is faster, or lighter, or smoother for example.

This study shows that people who move in a certain way, will also react in similar ways when they are performing joint tasks. Essentially, our movements give an insight into our inherent personality traits.

What we demonstrate is that people typically want to react and interact with people who are similar to themselves. But what our study also shows is that movement gives an indication of a person’s behavioral characteristics. This could therefore be used in the future to help diagnose patients with certain conditions by studying how they move and react to others.”

Piotr Słowiński, et al.
Dynamic similarity promotes interpersonal coordination in joint action
J. R. Soc. Interface 2016 13 20151093; DOI: 10.1098/rsif.2015.1093