Researchers Define “Personal Space”

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August 30, 2013 – Get out of my comfort zone!

British scientists say they have figured out how close is too close when talking face-to-face with someone else.

Whether we realize it or not there is an appropriate distance that we feel comfortable talking to people at. If they are centimetres from your face you will usually start to feel uncomfortable; according to Drs. Chiara Sambo and Giandomenico Iannetti of University College London this happens when another face is 20 to 37 centimetres (8 to 15 inches) away from yours.

Sambo and Iannetti studied 15 people between the ages of 20 and 37. They studied the blink reflexes of the participants because blinking is our bodies' natural defensive response to a dangerous situation or something that makes us anxious.

They held the subjects' hands 5, 20, 38, and 60 centimetres away from their face and studied how much each person blinked at each distance.

After the blink experiment doctors gave the participants questionnaires to fill out about anxiety. They found that people who had higher anxiety levels became much more uncomfortable when items were placed closer to their face than the people who got lower scores.

This finding also supports research that people with higher anxiety need more personal space than those without anxiety.

Sambo and Iannetti hope that the findings of this study can be used to find the link between defensive behaviour and anxiety levels.

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