Research Abstract

Murzynski, J., & Degelman, D. (1996). Body language of women and judgments of vulnerability to sexual assault. Journal of Applied Social Psychology, 26, 1617-1626.

The present study experimentally examined the effects of body language on judgments of vulnerability to sexual assault by strangers. Four features of body language (stride length, weight shift, body-limb movement, and foot movement) were manipulated to create 2 typical victim profiles and 1 typical non-victim profile. Short videotapes of 3 adult female models walking alone in each of the 3 body language profiles were filmed. Forty-one college students and 33 police officers individually viewed 3 videotapes (each showing a different model and a different body language profile) and made judgments for each about the woman’s confidence level and vulnerability to sexual assault. As predicted, women in the two victim profiles were judged to be significantly more vulnerable to sexual assault and significantly less confident than women in the non-victim profile. Implications and suggestions for future research are discussed.