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Simone Schnall, Jessica K. Witt, Jason Augustyn, Jeanine Stefanucci, Dennis R. Proffitt, Gerald L. Clore; Invasion of personal space influences perception of spatial layout. Journal of Vision 2005;5(8):198. doi: 10.1167/5.8.198.
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© ARVO (1962-2015); The Authors (2016-present)
Perception can be influenced by physical properties of the perceiver, such as whether the perceiver is encumbered, or is feeling fatigued (Proffitt, Bhalla, Gossweiler, & Midgett, 1995). However, it is unclear to what extent social properties of a situation influence perception. People use space in specific ways as a function of social relationships (e.g., Argyle & Dean, 1965). For example, people maintain an area of personal space around them, and are very sensitive to violations of this personal space (Hall, 1968). This study investigated whether an invasion of personal space influences distance estimates to an object. In the invasion condition, participants' space was invaded by an experimenter who casually placed a can of Coke from which she had been drinking immediately in front of them (at a distance of about 10–45 cm). In the control condition, the experimenter retrieved a fresh can of Coke from her briefcase, and placed it in front of the participant, with the words, “This is for you for participating.” Thus, the only difference between the two conditions was whether the experimenter had established ownership of the can (as indicated by drinking from it), and thus invaded the participant's personal space, or the participant had ownership of the can (as indicated by the experimenter's comment). Then participants gave a matching estimate of the distance between the Coke can and the edge of the table where they were sitting. Participants whose space had been invaded estimated the experimenter's can to be significantly closer than participants who had their own can within their personal space. Thus, when personal space was invaded another person's object was experienced as “too close.” These data support the notion that not only physical, but also social properties of the context can influence the perception of spatial layout.
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