Predicting Movement from Communication to Approach

A detailed analysis of six studies, five of which were random samples, of problematic approaches to public figures, both politicians and celebrities, in the United States and Europe indicates a high degree of consistency across six headings that predict movement from communication to an approach (Meloy et al., 2010). The six studies in this analysis (Dietz et al., 1991a, 1991b; Scalora et al., 2002a, 2002b; James et al., 2009a; Meloy et al., 2008a) utilized variables that were similar enough to each other to warrant these six headings. They also provided quantitative data that show a statistically significant difference between approachers and nonapproachers toward the six samples of public figures. The following headings indicate the direction of a greater likelihood of an approach:

  • No threatening communications

  • Serious mental illness

  • Requests for help

  • Multiple means of communication

  • Multiple contacts and targets

  • No antagonistic communications

No threatening communications refers to the absence of an expressed desire to do harm to, or have physical harm occur to, a target. Serious mental illness refers to the presence of psychosis, indicated by evidence of hallucinations, delusions, or formal thought disorder, during the activity of concern. Requests for help refers to the subject asking for help from the target. Multiple means of communication refers to the subject using at least two methods of communication, such as writing letters, telephoning, e-mailing, sending gifts or enclosures, or faxing. Multiple contacts or targets is the most disparate heading and combines a subject’s repetitive contact of a target through any means of communication and the subject’s contact of other public figure targets—both have the characteristics of repetitiveness and dispersion. No antagonistic communications refers to the absence of any hostile, abusive, or degrading aspects to the communications.

Four of these six studies also conducted logistic regressions to see how accurately an approach could be predicted. Overall correct classification ranged from 76 to 83 percent, which is 25 to 30 percent better than chance, depending on the base rates for approach in each study. Although the predictor variables across the four studies differed, multiple communications and/or contacts with other targets emerged as a predictor variable in all four studies. It appears that a common thread across these predictor studies, as well as the other two studies, is a level of energy and fixation

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