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7/6/2017 Proxemics - Wikipedia

From Wikipedia, the free encyclopedia

Proxemics is the study of human use of space and the effects that population density has on behaviour,
communication, and social interaction.[1] Proxemics is one among several subcategories in the study of nonverbal
communication, including haptics (touch), kinesics (body movement), vocalics (paralanguage), and chronemics
(structure of time).[2]

Edward T. Hall, the cultural anthropologist who coined the term in 1963, defined proxemics as "the interrelated
observations and theories of humans use of space as a specialized elaboration of culture".[3] In his foundational
work on proxemics, The Hidden Dimension, Hall emphasized the impact of proxemic behavior (the use of space)
on interpersonal communication. According to Hall, the study of proxemics is valuable in evaluating not only the
way people interact with others in daily life, but also "the organization of space in [their] houses and buildings, and
ultimately the layout of [their] towns".[4] Proxemics remains a hidden component of interpersonal communication
that is uncovered through observation and strongly influenced by culture.

This article will explore proxemics by elaborating on the interpersonal distances of man, the organization of space
as territories, the cultural factors related to proxemics, and applied research into the ways that communication
technologies shape current studies of proxemics in everyday life.

1 Human distances
1.1 Interpersonal distance
1.1.1 Horizontal
1.1.2 Vertical
1.2 Biometrics
1.3 Neuropsychology
2 Organization of space in territories
3 Cultural factors
3.1 Adaptation
4 Applied research
4.1 Advertising
4.2 Cinema
4.3 Cyberbullying
4.4 Virtual environments
5 See also
6 References
7 Further reading

Human distances
Interpersonal distance

Hall described the interpersonal distances of man (the relative distances between people) in four zones: intimate
space, personal space, social space, and public space. 1/10
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Intimate distance for embracing, touching or

Close phase less than 6 inches (15 cm)
Far phase 6 to 18 inches (15 to 46 cm)
Personal distance for interactions among good
friends or family
Close phase 1.5 to 2.5 feet (46 to 76 cm)
Far phase 2.5 to 4 feet (76 to 122 cm)
Social distance for interactions among
Close phase 4 to 7 feet (1.2 to 2.1 m)
Far phase 7 to 12 feet (2.1 to 3.7 m)
Public distance used for public speaking
Close phase 12 to 25 feet (3.7 to 7.6 m)
Far phase 25 feet (7.6 m) or more.

The distance surrounding a person form space. The

space within intimate distance and personal distance is
called personal space. The space within social distance
and out of personal distance is called social space. And
the space within public distance is called public space. A chart depicting Edward T. Hall's interpersonal distances
of man, showing radius in feet and meters
Personal space is the region surrounding a person which
they regard as psychologically theirs. Most people value their personal space and feel discomfort, anger, or anxiety
when their personal space is encroached.[5] Permitting a person to enter personal space and entering somebody
else's personal space are indicators of perception of those people's relationship. An intimate zone is reserved for
close friends, lovers, children and close family members. Another zone is used for conversations with friends, to
chat with associates, and in group discussions. A further zone is reserved for strangers, newly formed groups, and
new acquaintances. A fourth zone is used for speeches, lectures, and theater; essentially, public distance is that
range reserved for larger audiences.[6]

Entering somebody's personal space is normally an indication of familiarity and sometimes intimacy. However, in
modern society, especially in crowded urban communities, it can be difficult to maintain personal space, for
example when in a crowded train, elevator or street. Many people find such physical proximity to be
psychologically disturbing and uncomfortable,[5] though it is accepted as a fact of modern life. In an impersonal,
crowded situation, eye contact tends to be avoided. Even in a crowded place, preserving personal space is
important, and intimate and sexual contact, such as frotteurism and groping, is unacceptable physical contact.

The amygdala is suspected of processing people's strong reactions to personal space violations since these are
absent in those in which it is damaged and it is activated when people are physically close.[7] Research links the
amygdala with emotional reactions to proximity to other people. First, it is activated by such proximity, and
second, in those with complete bilateral damage to their amygdala, such as patient S.M., lack a sense of personal
space boundary.[7] As the researchers have noted: "Our findings suggest that the amygdala may mediate the
repulsive force that helps to maintain a minimum distance between people. Further, our findings are consistent
with those in monkeys with bilateral amygdala lesions, who stay within closer proximity to other monkeys or
people, an effect we suggest arises from the absence of strong emotional responses to personal space violation."[7] 2/10
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A person's personal space is carried with them everywhere they go. It is the most inviolate form of territory.[8]
Body spacing and posture, according to Hall, are unintentional reactions to sensory fluctuations or shifts, such as
subtle changes in the sound and pitch of a person's voice. Social distance between people is reliably correlated with
physical distance, as are intimate and personal distance, according to the delineations below. Hall did not mean for
these measurements to be strict guidelines that translate precisely to human behavior, but rather a system for
gauging the effect of distance on communication and how the effect varies between cultures and other
environmental factors.


The distances mentioned above are horizontal distance. There is also vertical distance that communicates
something between people. In this case, however, vertical distance is often understood to convey the degree of
dominance or sub-ordinance in a relationship. Looking up at or down on another person can be taken literally in
many cases, with the higher person asserting greater status.[9]

Teachers, and especially those who work with small children, should realize that students will interact more
comfortably with a teacher when they are in same vertical plane. Used in this way, an understanding of vertical
distance can become a tool for improved teacher-student communication. On the other hand, a disciplinarian might
put this information to use in order to gain psychological advantage over an unruly student.[9]


Hall used biometric concepts to categorize, explain, and explore the ways people connect in space. These
variations in positioning are impacted by a variety of nonverbal communicative factors, listed below.

Kinesthetic factors: This category deals with how closely the participants are to touching, from being
completely outside of body-contact distance to being in physical contact, which parts of the body are in
contact, and body part positioning.
Haptic code: This behavioral category concerns how participants are touching one another, such as
caressing, holding, feeling, prolonged holding, spot touching, pressing against, accidental brushing, or not
touching at all.
Visual code: This category denotes the amount of eye contact between participants. Four sub-categories are
defined, ranging from eye-to-eye contact to no eye contact at all.
Thermal code: This category denotes the amount of body heat that each participant perceives from another.
Four sub-categories are defined: conducted heat detected, radiant heat detected, heat probably detected, and
no detection of heat.
Olfactory code: This category deals in the kind and degree of odor detected by each participant from the
Voice loudness: This category deals in the vocal effort used in speech. Seven sub-categories are defined:
silent, very soft, soft, normal, normal+, loud, and very loud.


Whereas Hall's work uses human interactions to demonstrate spatial variation in proxemics, the field of
neuropsychology describes personal space in terms of the kinds of "nearness" to an individual body.

Extrapersonal space: The space that occurs outside the reach of an individual.
Peripersonal space: The space within reach of any limb of an individual. Thus, to be "within arm's length"
is to be within one's peripersonal space.
Pericutaneous space: The space just outside our bodies but which might be near to touching it. Visual-
tactile perceptive fields overlap in processing this space. For example, an individual might see a feather as 3/10
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not touching their skin but still experience the sensation of being tickled when it hovers just above their
hand. Other examples include the blowing of wind, gusts of air, and the passage of heat.[10]

Previc[11] further subdivides extrapersonal space into focal-extrapersonal space, action-extrapersonal space, and
ambient-extrapersonal space. Focal-extrapersonal space is located in the lateral temporo-frontal pathways at the
center of our vision, is retinotopically centered and tied to the position of our eyes, and is involved in object search
and recognition. Action-extrapersonal-space is located in the medial temporo-frontal pathways, spans the entire
space, and is head-centered and involved in orientation and locomotion in topographical space. Action-
extrapersonal space provides the "presence" of our world. Ambient-extrapersonal space initially courses through
the peripheral parieto-occipital visual pathways before joining up with vestibular and other body senses to control
posture and orientation in earth-fixed/gravitational space. Numerous studies involving peripersonal and
extrapersonal neglect have shown that peripersonal space is located dorsally in the parietal lobe whereas
extrapersonal space is housed ventrally in the temporal lobe.

Organization of space in territories

While personal space describes the immediate space surrounding a person,
territory refers to the area which a person may "lay claim to" and defend
against others.[2] There are four forms of human territory in proxemic
theory. They are:

Public territory: a place where one may freely enter. This type of
territory is rarely in the constant control of just one person. However,
people might come to temporarily own areas of public territory.
Interactional territory: a place where people congregate informally
Home territory: a place where people continuously have control Two people not affecting each other's
over their individual territory personal space
Body territory: the space immediately surrounding us

These different levels of territory, in addition to factors involving personal

space, suggest ways for us to communicate and produce expectations of
appropriate behavior.[12]

In addition to spatial territories, the interpersonal territories between

conversants can be determined by "socio-petal socio-fugal axis",[13] or the
"angle formed by the axis of the conversants' shoulders".[2] Hall has also
studied combinations of postures between dyads (two people) including Reaction of two people whose
lying prone, sitting, or standing. regions of personal space are in
Cultural factors
Personal space is highly variable, due to cultural differences and personal preferences. On average, preferences
vary significantly between countries. A 2017 study[14] found that personal space preferences with respect to
strangers ranged between more than 120 cm in Romania, Hungary and Saudi Arabia, and less than 90 cm in
Argentine, Peru, Ukraine and Bulgaria.

The cultural practices of the United States show considerable similarities to those in northern and central European
regions, such as Germany, the Benelux, Scandinavia, and the United Kingdom. Greeting rituals tend to be the same
in Europe and in the United States, consisting of minimal body contactoften confined to a simple handshake.
The main cultural difference in proxemics is that residents of the United States like to keep more open space 4/10
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between themselves and their conversation partners (roughly 4 feet (1.2 m) compared to 2 to 3 feet (0.60.9 m) in
Europe).[15] European cultural history has seen a change in personal space since Roman times, along with the
boundaries of public and private space. This topic has been explored in A History of Private Life (2001), under the
general editorship of Philippe Aris and Georges Duby.[16] On the other hand, those living in densely populated
places likely have lower expectations of personal space. Residents of India or Japan tend to have a smaller personal
space than those in the Mongolian steppe, both in regard to home and individual spaces. Different expectations of
personal space can lead to difficulties in intercultural communication.[5]

Hall notes that different culture types maintain different standards of personal space. The Francavilla Model of
Cultural Types,[17] also known as The Lewis Model, lists the variations in personal interactive qualities, indicating
three poles:[18]

linear-active cultures, which are characterized as cool and decisive (Germany, Norway, USA)
reactive cultures, characterized as accommodating and non-confrontational (Vietnam, China, Japan), and
multi-active cultures, characterized as warm and impulsive (Argentina, Brazil, Mexico, Italy).

Realizing and recognizing these cultural differences improves cross-cultural understanding, and helps eliminate
discomfort people may feel if the interpersonal distance is too large ("stand-offish") or too small (intrusive).


People make exceptions to and modify their space requirements. A number of relationships may allow for personal
space to be modified, including familial ties, romantic partners, friendships and close acquaintances, where there is
a greater degree of trust and personal knowledge. Personal space is affected by a person's position in society, with
more affluent individuals expecting a larger personal space.[19] Personal space also varies by gender and age.
Males typically use more personal space than females, and personal space has a positive relation to age (people use
more as they get older). Most people have a fully developed (adult) sense of personal space by age twelve.[20]

Under circumstances where normal space requirements cannot be met, such as in public transit or elevators,
personal space requirements are modified accordingly. According to the psychologist Robert Sommer, one method
of dealing with violated personal space is dehumanization. He argues that on the subway, crowded people often
imagine those intruding on their personal space as inanimate. Behavior is another method: a person attempting to
talk to someone can often cause situations where one person steps forward to enter what they perceive as a
conversational distance, and the person they are talking to can step back to restore their personal space.[19]

Implementing appropriate proxemic cues has been shown to improve success in monitored behavioral situations
like psychotherapy by increasing patient trust for the therapist (see active listening).[21] Instructional situations
have likewise seen increased success in student performance by lessening the actual or perceived distance
between the student and the educator (perceived distance is manipulated in the case of instructional
videoconferencing, using technological tricks such as angling the frame and adjusting the zoom).[22] Studies have
shown that proxemic behavior is also affected when dealing with stigmatized minorities within a population. For
example, those who do not have experience dealing with disabled persons tend to create more distance during
encounters because they are uncomfortable. Others may judge that the disabled person needs to have an increase of
touch, volume, or proximity.[23]

Applied research 5/10
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The theory of proxemics is often considered in relation to the impact of technology on human relationships. While
physical proximity cannot be achieved when people are connected virtually, perceived proximity can be attempted,
and several studies have shown that it is a crucial indicator in the effectiveness of virtual communication
technologies.[24][25][26][27] These studies suggest that various individual and situational factors influence how close
we feel to another person, regardless of distance. The mere-exposure effect originally referred to the tendency of a
person to positively favor those who they have been physically exposed to most often.[28] However, recent
research has extended this effect to virtual communication. This work suggests that the more someone
communicates virtually with another person, the more he is able to envision that person's appearance and
workspace, therefore fostering a sense of personal connection.[24] Increased communication has also been seen to
foster common ground, or the feeling of identification with another, which leads to positive attributions about that
person. Some studies emphasize the importance of shared physical territory in achieving common ground,[29]
while others find that common ground can be achieved virtually, by communicating often.[24]

Much research in the fields of communication, psychology, and sociology, especially under the category of
organizational behavior, has shown that physical proximity enhances peoples' ability to work together. Face-to-face
interaction is often used as a tool to maintain the culture, authority, and norms of an organization or
workplace.[30][31] An extensive body of research has been written about how proximity is affected by the use of
new communication technologies. The importance of physical proximity in co-workers is often emphasized.


Part of Facebook's earning comes from on site advertising. During these years, Facebook has offered companies
the ability to post and present content in a timeline format on their free brand or business page. By doing so,
companies can deliver a more comprehensive promotional message and increase audience engagement. If a user
"likes" a brand page, corporate content posted on the brand page will appear in the user's news feed. Many users
felt angry about the overly implanted ads that showed up in their Facebook timeline.[32]

Users that consider Facebook advertising "annoying" and "intrusive" may do so because companies are invading
their social domain (territory) with targeted, paid-for, corporate communications. Those that "hate" receiving
targeted messages on their social media profiles could be experiencing frustration.[33] It is likely that these users
are devoting effort to the creation and maintenance of boundaries around their social role, only to have advertisers
break through these boundaries with promotional content.


Proxemics is an essential component of cinematic mise-en-scne, the placement of characters, props and scenery
within a frame, creating visual weight and movement.[34] There are two aspects to the consideration of proxemics
in this context, the first being character proxemics, which addresses such questions as: How much space is there
between the characters? What is suggested by characters who are close to (or, conversely, far away from) each
other? Do distances change as the film progresses? and, Do distances depend on the film's other content?[35] The
other consideration is camera proxemics, which answers the single question: How far away is the camera from
the characters/action?[36] Analysis of camera proxemics typically relates Hall's system of proxemic patterns to the
camera angle used to create a specific shot, with the long shot or extreme long shot becoming the public proxemic,
a full shot (sometimes called a figure shot, complete view, or medium long shot) becoming the social proxemic, the
medium shot becoming the personal proxemic, and the close up or extreme close up becoming the intimate
proxemic.[37] 6/10
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A long shotthe public A full shotthe social A medium shotthe A close-upthe

proxemic proxemic personal proxemic intimate proxemic

Film analyst Louis Giannetti has maintained that, in general, the greater the distance between the camera and the
subject (in other words, the public proxemic), the more emotionally neutral the audience remains, whereas the
closer the camera is to a character, the greater the audience's emotional attachment to that character.[38] Or, as
actor/director Charlie Chaplin put it: "Life is a tragedy when seen in close-up, but a comedy in long shot."[39]


Cyberbullying is a communication phenomenon in which a bully

utilizes electronic media in order to harass peers. Adolescents favor
CMC forms of bullying over more direct face-to-face interactions
because it takes advantage of social norms for displaying female
aggression.[40] Online bullying has a lot in common with bullying in
school: Both behaviors include harassment, humiliation, teasing and
aggression. Cyberbullying presents unique challenges in the sense that
the perpetrator can attempt to be anonymous, and attacks can happen
at any time of day or night.[41] Cyberbullying

The main factor that encourages cyber bullying is the fact that a cyber
bully can hide behind the shield of online anonymity. In other words, social media magnifies the face-to-face
social space into a virtual space where a cyber bully can say anything about the victims without the pressure of
facing them.

Virtual environments

Bailenson, Blascovich, Beall, and Loomis conducted an experiment

in 2001, testing Argyle and Dean's (1965) equilibrium theory's
speculation of an inverse relationship between mutual gaze, a
nonverbal cue signaling intimacy, and interpersonal distance.
Participants were immersed in a 3D virtual room in which a virtual
human representation (that is, an embodied agent) stood.[42] The
focus of this study is on the subtle nonverbal exchanges that occur
between a person and an embodied agent. Participants in the study
clearly did not treat the agent as a mere animation. On the contrary,
Virtual Environment
the results suggest that, in virtual environments, people were
influenced by the 3D model and respected personal space of the
humanoid representation. The result of the experiment also indicated that women are more affected by the gaze
behaviors of the agent and adjust their personal space more accordingly than do men. However, men do 7/10
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subjectively assign gaze behavior to the agent, and their proxemic behavior reflects this perception. Furthermore,
both men and women demonstrate less variance in their proxemic behavior when the agent displays mutual gaze
behavior than when the agent does not.

Other researchers have established that proxemics can be a valuable tool for measuring the behavioral realism of
an agent or an avatar. People tend to perceive nonverbal gestures on an implicit level, and degree of personal space
appears to be an accurate way to measure people's perception of social presence and realism in virtual
environments. Nick Yee in his PhD thesis at Stanford discovered that real world proxemic distances also were
applied in the virtual world of Second Life[43] Other studies demonstrate that implicit behavioral measures such as
body posture can be a reliable measure of the user's sense of presence in virtual environments. Similarly, personal
space may be a more reliable measure of social presence than a typical ratings survey in immersive virtual

See also
Body language Shyness
Comfort zone Spatial empathy
Personal boundaries
Proxemic communication strategies
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Further reading
T. Matthew Ciolek (September 1983). "The Proxemics Lexicon: a first approximation". Journal of
Nonverbal Behavior. 8 (1): 5575. doi:10.1007/BF00986330 (
Edward T. Hall (1963). "A System for the Notation of Proxemic Behaviour". American Anthropologist. 65
(5): 10031026. doi:10.1525/aa.1963.65.5.02a00020 (
Robert Sommer (May 1967). "Sociofugal Space". The American Journal of Sociology. 72 (6): 654660.
doi:10.1086/224402 (
Lawson, Bryan (2001). "Sociofugal and sociopetal space". The Language of Space. Architectural Press.
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