Proxemics - The study of personal space

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During my time reading the chapter on Emotion and Motivation, I came across a section of information addressing proxemics-the study of personal space and measurable distance. According to Anthropologist Edward Hall, there are four levels of personal space, however the separations between these levels are not clear-cut. The first is Public distance, which is usually used for public speaking (12 feet or more.) The next is Social distance, typically used for conversations with strangers or casual acquaintances (4-12 feet.) Thirdly, there is Personal distance, the space used for conversations with close friends or romantic partners (1.5-4 feet.) Lastly, is Intimate distance, used for kissing, hugging, whispering or affectionate touching with a romantic partner (0-1.5 feet.)

The information is truly interesting as it brings a common, "real world" situation into our class with scientific thinking. Everyday, we all get up and bring ourselves into the world. With each step, we occupy space that many others do as well. However, this is not something we all think about and has become routine in our daily conventions as citizens in our society. Proxemics makes it clear that our distances differ depending on who ever we are speaking to or with.

The idea of proxemics reminded me of a video I once saw on Saturday Night Live with Steve Martin and Will Forte. In the sketch, two old friends bump into each other and decide to catch up. However, instead of speaking at a Social distance, the two old friends enter into an Intimate distance and carry on with their conversation. The sketch immediately becomes awkward and strange, as the audience doesn't understand why these men are so close to each other. One of them, Forte, comments on the very little space between them and decides to make some room, but nothing happens and the moment further adds to the comedy of the scene. The two decide to part ways but before they leave each other they share a goodbye. The audience is tricked to think the two are finally speaking at the normal, Social distance, but it is reveal at the end that the two are really much father away and at a space that Hall would label as a Public distance.

Proxemics will forever be a pivotal role in the functioning of humans. We must understand the appropriate distances and respect each other's personal space. I will never forget the time in Elementary school when the teachers called all of us students into a meeting to speak about personal space as our ragging hormones were just about to start to take over. They called it "bubble space" back then, but now I know they were just trying to explain proxemics. If only they had the SNL video to demonstrate it further...

Here is a link to the video on Hulu:

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Great post. Use the link function and add a picture or just imbed the video into your post.

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This page contains a single entry by rivki012 published on November 6, 2011 11:03 PM.

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