Baselining : Human Behaviour


We`ve probably all had that experience of “losing” something, because it wasn`t where it usually was. Or maybe we noticed someone hasn`t arrived at the time they “always” do. The simple connection is that we noticed because something was different to “normal”. We don`t need hours, days, weeks etc. of training to notice things like this, it`s a built in part of human nature. It helps to keep us safe. It works on the simple principle of “ If it was ok before, then if nothing changes it will be ok again.” So on a really basic level we are programmed to notice changes, and things that don`t fit because they have the potential to cause us problems. It helps to keep us safer. Now if we can take that in built ability, recognise it, refine it, develop it, we have a skill that can put us one step ahead of any potential threat to our safety. This is “BASELINING”. The ability to build a picture of what is normal for an area, the events within that area, the groups of people that populate that area, individuals within these groups etc. etc. What is “normal” for that area, people etc. is our “BASELINE”. It`s predictable. Why? Because humans are creatures of habit, we like to go with the flow. We feel safer when things don`t change, so overall we repeat actions, behaviours, routes etc. So why is this so useful to us as professionals? Well it means we can identify “Anomalies”, the things that don`t fit the baseline. Things that stand out because they either don`t usually happen, but have. Or the things that normally happen, but haven`t. Is every change, or deviation from our baseline a threat? No, but it does require our attention, just in case it is.


Within baselining we use a group of headings to help build pictures, and recognise these anomalies.


KINESICS:  Really a technical term for “BODY LANGUAGE”. Do people look relaxed or nervous, are they passive or aggressive, are they focused or distracted. Body language is mainly a subconscious action, so even if someone is trying to “ACT” naturally, it will probably stand out as unusual. These can often be observed at a distance.

BIOMETRICS: These are the reactions we get to fear, discomfort, uncertainty etc. They are usually part of the adrenaline response. The sweaty palms, blushing, dilated pupils, comforting behaviours (stroking their own arms etc). Even harder to control, but we need to be closer to recognise most of them.

PROXEMICS: The science of how people interact in groups, in terms of distance between each other, and movements among, towards, or away from each other. Human beings tend to avoid things they don`t like or fear, and become attracted to things they like or are interested in. We can often use “local knowledge” of areas to identify potential threats by watching how the locals move. Who or what do they give more space to, where do they congregate most and look relaxed. It`s often possible to identify hierarchy/rank, by who is approached and by whom.

GEOGRAPHICS: Or simply put “LOCAL KNOWLEDGE”. People are more comfortable, and behave differently in areas they are familiar with.

ICONOGRAHY: Everyone wears a uniform. We appreciate some uniforms are obvious, others maybe not so much. That said, as humans we tend to identify within groups, and dress to show that. It may be gang identification, or simply the fashion of that area, or even to identify as not part of a gang. Likewise within this heading we have those that will use types of uniform as a disguise. Do they look like they are comfortable in that uniform, Are they “Acting Naturally”. Graffiti , tattoos, facial hair etc. all fall in to this bracket.

ATMOSPHERICS: That “GUT FEELING” we`ve all had that something isn`t quite right. It`s our subconscious telling us that within our huge memory bank we have some information stored telling us there`s a potential threat. It also goes back to primal reactions. Our subconscious brain stores everything we`ve ever seen, done, tasted, felt, heard etc. etc. It has no need for reasons, it just tells us simply. This could be a threat to our safety!!! What we need to do as humans, is accept it and consider. Recognise it and take appropriate action.


If we treat the first five headings above as a set of The Olympic Rings. Seeing them as all linked and interacting with each other. Then place them within an all encompassing ring that is the mood or atmosphere created by them, we have a good picture of their use.


By always looking for and identifying “BASELINES” for areas, groups and individuals, we can spot the “ANOMALIES”, identify potential threats early, and take appropriate actions. In doing this we can maintain our distance from threats, increase the time we have to act, give ourselves more (and usually safer) options. We can stay one step ahead, and not be taken by surprise!!!