Problem with Close-Talking? Blame the Brain

Why is it so uncomfortable to stand really close to a stranger? Sure, there are the potentially icky things. Sometimes an elevator car is so crowded that you can smell a fellow rider’s shampoo or chewing gum (or worse). But even when a stranger is perfectly groomed, it’s usually a bit revolting to be pressed against him in public. Why?

Evolution seems to have programmed this discomfort via a brain structure called the amygdalae, a pair of almond-shaped brain regions deep within each temporal lobe that control fear and the processing of emotion. It’s your amygdalae that keep you from getting so close to another person that he could easily reach out, gouge an eye, and then drag your woman off by her hair.

Read more at Times health

Personal Space final

personal space

Everyone is talking about time management these days and warnings about balancing between research vs execution and also making things work.
Learning to enjoy our own project process is important too. But the word “FYP” will just put all enjoyment aside. no. it wont be a fyp project but more of finding out something I want to know, and sharing it with people through visual communications.

Someone discussed about how projects should first catch people’s attention with something awesome first so that people will move to look further into the process journal, methodology, research…and finding out what it really is. It just don’t only work in the arts and design industry, but also in business, science… all fields.
In the mist of all the mugging and researching, I kind of forgotten that common people don’t look at how much work you have done to determine how good the project is. They look for something that interest them and relate to them. Then they grasp the general concept of the project, influence how they think and remember them when they leave.

ooohhh.. too much to handle.

“mock up”

still on the way to get all the information in.
I don’t know if it will still look like this in the end or I should spread my focus on exams and other modules..

Anyway, one thing learnt through random quick photographing of work vs executing the work: complexity don’t go through people’s mind. Simplicity does.

Effects of personal space on pro-social behavior

This topic submitted by Zane, Chris, Rachel ( at 11:25 am on 12/11/01. Additions were last made on Wednesday, January 29, 2003. Section: Dorsey

via jr science

Quotes and main points from journal:

As a rule, people have always been characteristically territorial. Territoriality is the behavior that an organism demonstrates to claim an area and defend it from other organisms

As the world’s population density grows, the need to make space for people increases. By recognizing the various zones of involvement, relationships and emotions, more people can live comfortably together. By conducting this experiment, we are trying to determine how much space people need to feel comfortable. If people feel uncomfortable, they become more stressed. When people become more stressed, they become more sensitive to over crowding, and more space is required for each person.

A female may have been more likely to help another female, while a male ma have been more likely to help a female. Furthermore, culture was probably another major influence on this experiment. Different cultures are comfortable with having people enter different zones. Age would also affect out experiment. A much older person may hesitate to pick up note cards for a capable youth


4th Observation for the project with considerable findings.
Despite that all the people I observed are males, the observation showed significant documentation about personal space.

Some general conclusions.

People with similar ethnic group will tend to sit closer to each other. Surprisingly, they will also chat randomly to each other even though they are strangers.

Personal space is rather tight (estimated on average >1/3 width, approx. 5-10cm) even though their there are ample empty space around them.
Maybe it is because of the social norm at that environment, because of this closeness, it spark communication between people. Or they did not mind the closeness and hoping for interaction to happen to pass some time.
In cases when some felt the intrusion of personal space, (e.g one when an Indian talks on phone and another Indian man sits down beside him with almost 0 personal space, the first Indian man stood up immediately and walks away talking on the phone.)

They have a common intimate action of patting each other’s thigh while talking. (for both Asians and South Asians)

They extend their limbs to declare more personal space. (e.g with bend arm, or both legs crossed on the seat)

In another case, people place their objects around them to declare more personal space.

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.

KLM Personal Space Experiment

One of KLM’s latest adverts to promote their Business Class seats in Europe comes in this this great video that also explores personal space and their boundaries.
With candid camera, KLM went undercover at Schiphol Airport to measure people’s behavior as part of their personal space experiment. Hosted by Matt Chapman they want to uncover the secrets of personal space.

Thanks Darryl for the link!

What’s next?

When I set the project, I was intending to investigate the personal space in a multi-cultural and globalized society. With different mix of people from different background, cultures and upbringing, I hope to find out the difference between them and “hopefully” to derive something from there.

But even so with that, I am still confused.
Confused with how I should present the data. isit a infor graphics? or merely just presenting what I found which everyone can just replicate the project again and again in different context.
What is the “thing” that I want to represent so that viewer will not just “orh.. so that’s the difference” but rather, “hmm.. ya, I didn’t realize that” or more like understanding and becoming more aware of the personal space in daily life. And on top of that, becoming more sensitive and respect different culture background.

I know I am looking more into the tightness of personal space. The tighter the distance, the more it converse. It may tell us about the relationship between the people. Or reflect that they either have no sense of personal space or comfortable with tight personal space.

Don’t quite understand why on the average 40+ males and females in general don’t mind tight personal space with strangers but when they have the chance to take up more space, they quickly move to hog more space.
Why do they behave like that? Are the behaviours conscious or unconscious?

Success of iPod/mobile devices has to do with proxemics?

“…Researchers explain the success of the iPod with peoples’ need to create exclusive private comfort zones in public space. This sounds plausible, and in fact, I wonder what percentage of music player, game console, PDA, and cell phone sales can be attributed to consumers’ quest for overcoming unwelcome intimacy. As people typically avoid eye-contact in elevators, subway trains, and in other forced pseudo-intimate social situations, they find devices desirable that distract them from paying “social attention capital.”

This is especially true for highly stressful situations such as waiting in public, when the whole room seems to stare at you, pitying you for being alone and having no reason to be there in the first place. In fact, I sometimes play with my BlackBerry although I don’t expect any e-mail, and I write meaningless text messages on my cell phone – just to demarcate my comfort zone and appear busy while waiting. A friend of mine once told me that eating alone in a restaurant was initially so humiliating that she took it on as a trial of courage before it eventually became the proud badge for a stronger public self. ”

via Design Taxi

me: It is an irony that because of trying to be in a world to avoid eye- contact with strangers in the public may lead being inconsiderate in the public, thus, invading other people’s personal space.
I don’t know. We are creating a cycle here to distract ourselves from the people around us and be in our own world even when we are outside. Is this the reason why everyone has become individualistic and self-centered?

There is also a difference between the older and younger generation in Singapore. Older generation needs lesser personal space than the younger generation. So did the rise of technology and western culture influence the younger generation? Is the difference in personal space between generation a protest against the overpopulated city?

Even within a circle of friends, you tend to fiddle with your phone and act busy just to fill up that white space between two or more people because of that awkwardness during that moment when you do not know how or what to talk about.
Have we already learnt the way to create a personal space using the virtual world?
Even so, research have also show that personal space is so closely related to us that we bring these behaviour to the virtual world as well.