One of the more interesting features of the modern zombie is their relentlessly aggressive nature. We generally consider the undead to be primitive and animalistic; moaning, growling or snarling as they endlessly hunt their prey. The undead are often shown gnashing their teeth, wildly clawing at victims, and making quite a spectacle of themselves. However, despite being described as beastly behavior, this is almost exactly the opposite!
When an animal growls or bears its teeth, the act is usually meant as a warning. Aggressive behavior is intended to scare away predators, protect territory, or intimidate their rivals. The entire purpose of such a display is to avoid a physical confrontation entirely, not invite one! Most animals are usually very slow, quiet, and deliberate while stalking their next meal.
Human behavior is surprisingly similar; a determined glare, tense muscles, and meticulous movements often indicate a coming attack. Even hunters and other conservationists take great pains to move quietly while tracking their game. So what can explain the loud and relentlessly aggressive nature of the undead? Perhaps we can find an answer in the great Roman soldiers of antiquity, and the underlying psychology of their war cries.
Like all peoples of Antiquity, Roman troops used war cries to frighten the enemy, demonstrate strength and eagerness, and heighten individual and collective determination, but the demands of discipline and tactical cohesion required them to exercise restraint. Frequent shouting generated alarm or impetuosity among both men and horses, and impeded the communication of orders. Accordingly, battle cries were only permitted immediately prior to or upon engaging the enemy at close quarters. The strict observance of silence until this juncture also unnerved opponents and intensified the psychological impact of the battle cry.
Obviously zombies lack the discipline and restraint to exploit the psychological impact of a battle cry. They certainly demonstrate no tactical cohesion or collective determination. And they don’t clench their fists, narrow their eyes, or display any individual signs of aggression typically associated with normal human body language. After all, these subtle hand gestures and facial expressions are a remnant of social norms that mean nothing to the walking dead.
And yet, they seem to be tapping into something much more primitive and immediate! Their unrestrained eagerness and relentlessly aggressive nature compel them to announce their presence; perhaps to frighten the enemy and demonstrate their strength. But such behavior is detrimental to the hunt. And therein lies the contradiction of zombie body language!
If zombies really wanted to eat the living, we assume they’d be much more quiet and deliberate about it. Growling, snarling, and even the most threatening battle cry can’t kill. But it does appear to provide some form of primal release for the undead. Are they merely unable to exercise restraint, or perhaps such behavior runs deeper than we previously believed?
For more information please check out the book War Cry by Philip Rance, “5 Body Language Signs That Reveal If A Person Is Dangerous” via Off The Grid News, or the “Psychology of Killing” via Military Science Fiction. And let us know what you think in the comments below!