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What happens next? The predictability of natural behaviour viewed through CCTV cameras

T. Troscianko, A. Holmes, J. Stillman, M. Mirmehdi, D. Wright, What happens next? The predictability of natural behaviour viewed through CCTV cameras. Perception, 33(1). ISBN ISSN 0301-0066, pp. 87–101. February 2004. No electronic version available.


Can potentially antisocial or criminal behaviour be predicted? Our study aimed to ascertain (a) whether observers can successfully predict the onset of such behaviour when viewing real recordings from CCTV; (b) where, in the sequence of events, it is possible to make this prediction; and (c) whether there may be a difference between naive and professional observers. We used 100 sample scenes from UK urban locations. Of these, 18 led to criminal behaviour (fights or vandalism). A further 18 scenes were matched as closely as possible to the crime examples, but did not lead to any crime, and 64 were neutral scenes chosen from a wide variety of noncriminal situations. A signal-detection paradigm was used in conjunction with a 6-point rating scale. Data from fifty naive and fifty professional observers suggest that (a) observers can distinguish crime sequences from neutral sequences and from matches; (b) there are key types of behaviour (particularly gestures and body position) that allow predictions to be made; (c) the performance of naive observers is comparable to that of experts. However, because the experts were predominantly male, the absence of an effect of experience may have been due to gender differences, which were investigated in a subsidiary experiment. The results of experiment 2 leave open the possibility that females perform better than males at such tasks.

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