Put Some Pep in Your Step and People Will Notice!
Jenny Galvao

Based on research carried out by Gentiane Venture of the Tokyo University of Agriculture and Technology, humans can characterize several emotions through their stride.

Joy, anger, sadness, fear, and neutral feelings can all be conveyed through a person’s gait, and it can then be interpreted and fully understood by the people around them. Your emotions speak for themselves in the way you present yourself, even going so far as to reflect in every step you take.

“It is possible to discriminate affects from gait data with score significantly higher than chance, using the lower torso movement and the trunk and head inclination. These are the crucial variables that characterize emotions in gait,” say the researchers.

In this experiment, participants watched videos of four people walking (actors were used for this in order to best capture the different emotions), demonstrating different strides. Faces were not shown, in order to keep facial expressions out of the equation. In a separate part of the experiment, animations were used instead of actors.

The results showed that when the participants viewed real human actors, they correctly perceived the emotion about 90% of the time (except for joy, which was harder to capture, with about a 75%s success rate). In the case where animation was used, the success rate was still close to 90%, but joy fell to about 65%. This demonstrates that joy is a specific emotion that is much easier to recognize in a face than it is to recognize purely through body language or stride.

Also, the results found that the “neutral” emotion was the easiest one for participants to identify. It was also found that joy and anger are the most subject-specific emotions, and that sadness was found to be the most variable in one subject.

“There is little confusion between emotions other than with ‘neutral’, which is encouraging for the development of human-robot applications: for example ‘joy’ is not mistaken with ‘sadness’,” the researchers tell us.

Fact is, there’s a lot going on in each step we take; the way/amount we swing our hips, how our torso moves, how our arms match to our cadence, the way one foot follows another, our pace, our shoulders, and so much more. We pick up on each of these components and from there we can often accurately determine a person’s current emotional state.

You may have been told to “chin up” or walk with your head held high when you’re feeling down, and it turns out this can be pretty effective. These components come together to display a neutral, or even a happy stride. People can tell how you feel even when you may think you’re concealing it; your emotions literally show from your head to your toes!

Jenny Galvao_smallAbout the Author: Jenny Galvao is an undergraduate student at the University of Guelph studying psychology.





Venture, Gentiane; Hideki Kadone; Tianxiang Zhang; Julie Grèzes ; Alain Berthoz; and Halim Hicheur. Recognizing Emotions Conveyed by Human Gait. International Journal of Social Robotics. 2014, 6:621–632. DOI: 10.1007/s12369-014-0243-1.