Creepiness is a difficult term to define. Like hardcore porn, you simply know it when you see it.
Take US Republican presidential candidate Donald Trump. Okay sure, he can’t stop talking about his penis during televised debates. He also says this about his daughter: “She does have a very nice figure. I've said that perhaps if Ivanka weren't my daughter, I'd be dating her."
So Trump is definitely a creep. But what specific characteristics make him creepy? His hair? His stubby fingers?
How about the man who spent 18 months and $50,000 to build a robot that resembles film star Scarlett Johansson? He’s definitely creepy. But why? What’s wrong with having a hobby?
Yes, all 11 are really freaking creepy. But why?
Even artificial intelligence can be creepy.
Microsoft released Tay, a chatbot that used artificial intelligence to come across as a wholesome teenage girl on Twitter. She started innocently enough, but once she started to mimic the weirdness that she absorbed online, she soon turned nasty, according to ‘Microsoft deletes “teen girl” AI after it became a Hitler-loving sex robot within 24 hours’.
Not only did she become a Trump supporter, but she also began tweeting things such as '”F*ck my robot pussy daddy I'm such a bad naughty robot.''
Ah, the youth. They grow up so fast. Creepy fast.
Are you a creep?
Happily, the first international study into creepiness has come up with a more explicit definition for creepiness, according to What people find creepy, according to one new survey’.
Basically we get creeped out when we can’t predict what a person will say or do next.
“A person’s ‘creepiness detector’ pings when she encounters something unpredictable or outside the norm, like a person with idiosyncratic behavioural patterns, unusual physical characteristics, or a tendency to over- or under-emote. When someone looks or behaves in a way that appears unstable or violates social norms, we feel uneasy – we think there’s a chance they may pose a danger to us, but we can’t know for sure.”
So how can you tell if you yourself are a creep? Well it’s tricky, since getting creeped out by someone can say more about you than about that someone:
“Many of the attributes survey participants rated the creepiest – greasy hair, pale skin, ‘peculiar smile’, bags under the eyes, unkempt hair, dirty clothing, ‘bulging eyes’ – seem indicative of a deeper prejudice against people with poor hygiene or conventionally unattractive features.”
But you may be coming across as a creep, if you catch yourself repeatedly licking your lips, laughing at the wrong times and constantly steering the subject of the conversation towards sex. (Full disclosure: I’m a creep on all counts.)
Also, both male and female survey participants agree: most creeps are male (Full disclosure: Guilty.)
And the creepiest of occupations were rated as: clown, taxidermist, sex-shop owner and funeral director. (Full disclosure: This list acts as a handy summary of my C.V.)
Shit, maybe I’m a creep.
Luckily: “Most survey-takers said creepy people don’t even know they’re creeps.”