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News / Life

Birdwatchers rank high on creepy scale

By Karin Brulliard, The Washington Post
Published: April 17, 2016, 5:01am

Here’s what most American birdwatchers are, according to a 2013 government study: White, older than 45, fairly well-off and pretty highly educated.

Here’s what many people think birdwatchers are: Creepy.

That’s according to a recent study that says it is the first “empirical study of ‘creepiness.’ ” Led by psychology professor Frank McAndrew at Illinois’ Knox College, the study set out to introduce “a theoretical perspective on the common psychological experience of feeling “creeped out,” and to figure out what makes us think other people are creepy.

The conclusion — based on a survey of 1,341 people, most of whom were female and American — is that feeling creeped out is an evolved response to the ambiguity of a possible threat, which helps us to remain vigilant.

About 95 percent of respondents thought creepy people are much more likely to be male, and female respondents were more likely to perceive a sexual threat from creeps. Characteristics widely perceived as creepy include greasy hair, being extremely thin and watching people before interacting with them.

Jobs to avoid if you don’t want to seem creepy: Clown, taxidermist, sex shop owner and funeral director.

In another section, survey respondents were asked to list two hobbies that are creepy. By far, “collecting things” took top honors, with special mentions for collecting insects and reptiles.

And: “Bird watchers were considered creepy by many as well.”

The study offers no details about why. But it turns out that this is probably not news to birdwatchers, and it seems to be rooted in a key birding tool: Binoculars.