Gender, Ethnicity, Intimacy and Proxemics

Via Shivana

Shivana Naidoo
Professor Southworth
Male and Female Communications
Fall 2000

Quotes in relation to the personal space project:

Based on previous research, men demand and claim more personal space than women.

As defined by Hall, intimate distance is 6-18 inches in the far phase and 6-0 inches in the close phase. Hall also defines Personal distance as 1-½ feet to 2 ½ feet for the close phase and 2 ½ feet to 4 feet for the far phase.

Most proxemic research suggests that female-female dyads stand closer than male-female dyads and male-male dyads (Arliss, 2000). Research also shows that men are more likely to respond more negatively to invasion of space than women (Knapp, 153).

This bubble widens in depth and encompasses more space in the front and sides of a person. People are less defensive of the space in back or in front of them. They are therefore more willing to let others surround or approach them from the sides and behind them than in the front (Arliss, 2000)

Leathers’ research suggests that males are more defensive of the space in front of them, whereas women are more defensive of the space that is on their sides. Females respond negatively to side-by-side interactions while men more upset by intrusions head on (Leathers, 97).

Another way to measure the proxemics between people is nose-to-nose distance. The smaller the nose-to-nose distance the greater the intrusion into intimate space and greater the possibility of discomfort.

Unlike the image of the proper, reserved, and pale white woman of the early 19th century, white females today are more willing to reach out and share their space with others (Hall, 84).

Of the Asian females that I interviewed, only 20% of them touch and stayed. Although there is no evidence for the reason why so few Asian women were willing to share their personal space with me, it is possible that their reaction may be representative of their proxemic cultural norms.

All of the Indian females and Indian males allowed me to get closer to them than any other ethnic group. The most likely factor that led to both genders allowing me to approach them is the fact that I myself am of Indian descent. Perhaps they felt more comfortable with me asking them questions, or were more willing to share their space and time with me as the result of our common heritage.

society and the humans that interact within that society have created a set of proxemic norms. These norms vary in many different cultures

Young children do not understand the concept space and its social norms. They create their boundaries as they get older, closing off more and more of themselves to the world. Studies have shown that as adults grow older, their need for space increases (Mayo et al, 81). As adults further mature they are more likely, to cut off more of themselves from the world and its ideas.


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