Cornelia H. Dudley Professor of Psychology
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Every office has one. He is the guy you dread being left alone with in the break room; the guy with whom an awkward one minute conversation seems to last an hour; the guy who hovers at the edge of the group during happy hour with a mysterious smile engraved on his face.
He doggedly (and unsuccessfully) asks his female coworkers out to lunch, and he may work in IT. Even though you know very little about his private life, you just know that he engages in peculiar hobbies like taxidermy or collecting something. I am of course talking about the office “creep,” and the office creep is almost always a man rather than a woman.
If you are having trouble thinking of who the creep is at your workplace, it probably means that you are the guy.
What exactly is it that makes some people seem so creepy?
I recently did a study in which I tried to unearth the building blocks of this thing we call Creepiness. In an online survey, 1,341 people weighed in on a range of behaviors and characteristics that I thought might be important, and a paper based upon this study, co-authored with Sara Koehnke (one of my students), recently appeared in New Ideas in Psychology.
Everything we found was consistent with the idea that getting “creeped out” is an unpleasant emotional experience that occurs in situations where there is an ambiguity about threat.
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