A possible way to assess how aggressive a person is could be the analysis of their walk, new research has shown.

Published in the Journal of Nonverbal Behavior, the study by University of Portsmouth researchers found that an indicator for aggression was the exaggerated movement of a person’s upper and lower body.

“When walking, the body naturally rotates a little; as an individual steps forward with their left foot, the left side of the pelvis will move forward with the leg, the left shoulder will move back and the right shoulder forward to maintain balance,” lead researcher Liam Satchell explained in a press release. “An aggressive walk is one where this rotation is exaggerated.”

For the purpose of the study, researchers studied the personalities of 29 participants. To measure the level of aggression, the participants completed a questionnaire. Using a standard personality test — the "big five" — personality traits like openness, conscientiousness, extraversion, agreeableness and neuroticism were assessed.

Motion capture technology was used to record their walk on a treadmill. This technology records the actions of humans and uses the information to bring to life digital character models in 3D computer animation. From the data collected this way, the researchers analyzed the movement of the thorax and pelvis and the speed of the person’s gait.

“People are generally aware that there is a relationship between swagger and psychology. Our research provides empirical evidence to confirm that personality is indeed manifest in the way we walk,” Satchell said. “We know of no other examples of research where gait has been shown to correlate with self-reported measures of personality and suggest that more research should be conducted between automatic movement and personality.”

According to Satchell, the identification of such a relation between a person’s biological motion and their susceptibility to resort to aggression could provide a possible basis to prevent crime.