Don't Stand So Close To Me! An Investigation into Personal Space *
AbstractHow do you feel when a friend comes too close to you? How far away or close do you think is necessary to have a conversation with someone? The answers to these questions are dependent upon the size of your personal space. Some people like to be within a foot of each other when having a conversation and others feel that being 3 feet apart is still just a little too close for comfort.
Personal space is defined as the protective area surrounding a person's body (not necessarily spherical in size) that the person regards as psychologically his or hers. Invasion of personal space can lead to discomfort, anger, or anxiety. In the animal kingdom, personal space differs from territory in that it is mobile. We take our personal space wherever we go. Another difference is that territory boundaries are fixed, whereas personal space has dynamic boundaries, dependent upon the situation. When person 1 enters person 2's personal space, person 2 will usually get very uncomfortable and withdraw from the vicinity. As someone gets closer to us, we pick up on cues that give us information about that person. For example, as someone gets closer, we pick up on thermal, olfactory, and facial cues. Some of these cues might signal that we should get away from that person immediately!
There are many different questions you can ask about personal space. For example, at what age do humans start to develop their personal space? When do we start to learn socially acceptable behavior when interacting with other people? Does the size of a person's personal space depend upon his or her gender? Are personal space boundaries equal in all directions? Does it matter if someone walks straight toward us or sidles up next to us? Are there different personal space zones? How does culture affect personal space? If these questions interest you and you are not too afraid to get close, then you ought to attempt this science project! To get some ideas on how to set up personal space testing, check out the references in the Bibliography.
Michelle Maranowski, PhD, Science Buddies
Cite This PageGeneral citation information is provided here. Be sure to check the formatting, including capitalization, for the method you are using and update your citation, as needed.
Last edit date: 2017-07-28
- Aiello, J. and Aiello T.D. (1974). The Development of Personal Space: Proxemic Behavior of Children 6 Through 16. Human Ecology. Vol. 2, No. 3, 177-189.
- Kincher, Jonni. Psychology for Kids II: 40 Fun Experiments That Help You Learn About Others. Minneapolis: Free Spirit Publishing Inc., 1995.
News Feed on This Topic
Ask an ExpertThe Ask an Expert Forum is intended to be a place where students can go to find answers to science questions that they have been unable to find using other resources. If you have specific questions about your science fair project or science fair, our team of volunteer scientists can help. Our Experts won't do the work for you, but they will make suggestions, offer guidance, and help you troubleshoot.
Ask an Expert
If you like this project, you might enjoy exploring these related careers:
AnthropologistWhere do we come from? Why do we walk upright? Why do we behave the way we do? These are just some of the big and fascinating questions that anthropologists try to answer. Anthropologists study all aspects of human life, in every region of the world, throughout all time. They might focus on everything from present-day cultures and human behavior, traditions, and prehistoric cultures to the biology and evolution of humans, or the origin and evolution of language. Read more
SociologistAny time there is more than one person in a room, there is potential for a social interaction to occur or for a group to form. Sociologists study these interactions—how and why groups and societies form, and how outside events like health issues, technology, and crime affect both the societies and the individuals. If you already like to think about how people interact as individuals and in groups, then you're thinking like a sociologist! Read more
PsychologistWhy people take certain actions can often feel like a mystery. Psychologists help solve these mysteries by investigating the physical, cognitive, emotional, or social aspects of human behavior and the human mind. Some psychologists also apply these findings in order to design better products or to help people change their behaviors. Read more
News Feed on This Topic
Looking for more science fun?
Try one of our science activities for quick, anytime science explorations. The perfect thing to liven up a rainy day, school vacation, or moment of boredom.Find an Activity
Explore Our Science Videos
Paper Rockets - STEM Activity
How to make an anemometer (wind speed meter)
Slow Motion Craters - STEM Activity