Is trouble coming your way? Exploring the neurocognitive mechanisms to assess threatening body language in men

Leslie, Connor (2022) Is trouble coming your way? Exploring the neurocognitive mechanisms to assess threatening body language in men. Doctoral thesis, Northumbria University.

Text (Doctoral thesis)
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Background and Objectives: Literature from a number of domains suggests that intrasexual selection has been a strong mechanism in shaping men’s traits and behaviour. Due to the physical conflict that men have historically engaged in with each other, it is theorised that we have developed cognitive mechanisms to assess physical dominance from a variety of cues. The aims of this thesis are to understand how physical dominance is encoded into the walking gait of men, and investigate how observers decode these cues.

Design: All studies were quantitative and contained two stages, a stimuli creation and ratings of the stimuli. Stimuli creation utilised motion capture techniques to gather movement in a precise and digitised way. This involved placing 39 retroreflective markers on the major joints of the body to capture each body segment with six degrees of freedom. These were transformed into featureless avatars using professional animation software to ensure that anthropometric or other visual features (e.g., build, weight, hair, clothing) were not on display.

Methods: Stimuli was presented to participants across four studies to rate on physical dominance and likelihood of crossing the road to avoid the man.

Results: It was found that ratings of physical dominance had a consistent link with the strength and physical size of the man, where stronger and physically larger men were rated higher in physical dominance and were more likely to be avoided if they approached the observer on a dark night. Preliminary biomechanical analyses suggests that a pendulum like movement between the mid-hip and mid-back strongly increased perceptions of physical dominance. Participants were also able to differentiate between baseline and threatening walks in studies three and four, suggesting that men alter their movements when confronting an opponent.

Conclusion: Overall, the findings suggest that men alter their movement when acting in a threatening manner, their build is clearly encoded into their gait, and the amount of swing in their motion may be a key factor in observer’s perceptions of their dominance. Together, this thesis provides vital new knowledge into our understanding of how men have evolved to display physical dominance and that we can decode these cues and take action.

Item Type: Thesis (Doctoral)
Uncontrolled Keywords: physical dominance, motion capture, threatening behaviour, movement
Subjects: C800 Psychology
Department: Faculties > Health and Life Sciences > Psychology
University Services > Graduate School > Doctor of Philosophy
Depositing User: John Coen
Date Deposited: 10 May 2023 08:19
Last Modified: 10 May 2023 08:30

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