The way we move can offer a surprising level of insight into our personalities, according to new research.
A team of European researchers recently found that each of us has an "individual motor signature" -- and this signature forms a blueprint for mapping out subtle differences in our movements compared to others, Dr. Krasimira Tsaneva-Atanasova, a professor of mathematics for health care at the University of Exeter in England and a co-author of the research, told The Huffington Post.
While the mechanics of human movement on a broad level has been well-studied, scientists have paid less attention to individual differences in movement, until now.
"We show that different individuals have different motor signatures," she said. "In other words, individuals could be classified based on the way they move."
Namely, the extent to which your movements are similar to another person’s can determine how easily you can coordinate with that person and how similar your behaviors are.
The research, which was published in the journal Interface on Wednesday, involved a series of three experiments and about 82 participants. Some of the participants were asked to play a "plain mirror game," in which two players imitated each other's movements, which were tracked and analyzed.
It turned out that the players who were better at mimicking each other's movements -- including qualities like speed and weight of movement -- also exhibited more collective behaviors. By comparing the two individuals' movement signatures, the researchers could also determine the level of comfort and rapport in the relationship.
Imitation is known to be important to our ability to develop friendships and form bonds with others.
"We know that when people move in synchrony -- marching, chanting, drumming, etc. -- it stimulates collaboration," said Carol Kinsey Goman, body language expert and author of The Silent Language of Leaders, who was not involved in the study. "It is normal, human behavior to mirror the posture and movement of those we agree with and like."
These new findings suggest that people who are better able to sync their individual movement signatures with each other’s have personalities that are more compatible.
"This study shows that people who move in a certain way, will also react in similar ways when they are performing joint tasks," Tsaneva-Atanasova said in a statement. "Essentially, our movements give an insight into our inherent personality traits."
The researchers concluded that analyzing these motor signatures could one day offer a new pathway into diagnosing and treating mental illness, such as conditions involving social phobias. For instance, scientists could develop virtual reality technology in which a patient is asked to mimic the bodily movements of an avatar.
"What we demonstrate is that ... movement gives an indication of a person's behavioral characteristics," Tsaneva-Atanasova said. "This could therefore be used in the future to help diagnose patients with certain conditions by studying how they move and react to others."