Knox study on ‘creepiness’ garners international attention

A study by Knox College students trying to nail down what makes a person creepy is catching the attention of media and entertainers around the world.

Knox psychology professor Frank McAndrew led the research project with student Sara Koehnke. McAndrew tells WGIL more than 1,300 people answered an online survey with questions about occupations, physical appearance and behavior to figure out what creepiness is.

“It’s different from fear because when you’re afraid of something it’s very clear what the threat is and you know what to do,” McAndrew says. “It’s not the same as disgust because there you know what the problem is and avoid it. But ambiguity of threat kind of leaves us uncertain what we should do and the threat can be coming from a person or a place.”

McAndrew says he’s done a couple dozen interviews over the last few weeks and his study has been mentioned in hundreds of papers, magazines and online outlets around the globe.

He says he studies every-day things that interest people, so he’s used to the media latching to his work — but never like this.

“I was doing three or four interviews a day and half the time I even forgot who I was talking to at the moment,” he says. “It’s fun. I know the day will come when nobody want to talk to me about anything, so, I’ll take it.”

The study has been published in the journal New Ideas in Psychology.