Searching for an essay?

Browse the database of more than 4500 essays donated by our community members!

Personal Space Essay

Example #1 – The Violation Of Personal Space And The Avoidance Behaviour

Observational research was conducted to see if the personal space of an individual would guide him in avoidance quicker when it has been violated by one person or when it has been violated by three. Four people were observed each of them separately, by five violators, while they were studying in the library.

Two of them were observed when one violator sat to the same table that they were studying and the other two were observed when three violators sat on the table that they were studying. It was predicted that people would be likely to avoid the violation of their personal space when it was caused by three violators than when it was caused by one violator.


Writing service




[Rated 96/100]

Prices start at $12
Min. deadline 6 hours
Writers: ESL
Refund: Yes

Payment methods: VISA, MasterCard, American Express


[Rated 94/100]

Prices start at $11
Min. deadline 3 hours
Writers: ESL, ENL
Refund: Yes

Payment methods: VISA, MasterCard, American Express, Discover


[Rated 91/100]

Prices start at $12
Min. deadline 3 hours
Writers: ESL, ENL
Refund: Yes

Payment methods: VISA, MasterCard, JCB, Discover

Individual tries to organize his environment in a way that his freedom of choice is maximized. One way that the individual is able to achieve the desired freedom of choice is by controlling what goes on in particular areas of space. One of these areas is the personal space which according to Goffman(1972) is the portable bubble of space sometimes seen as part of interpersonal distance.

According to Sommer (1959) personal space is carried around by individuals. Each individual has his own personal space and is invisible. In the 1960s the American anthropologists Edward T Hall said that personal space can be viewed as an extension of the human body and he defined four distinct stages, a) the intimate distance, which contains bodily contact and which has to do with a human personal relationship, b) the casual-personal distance which is the distance which is kept between closed friends or in a party, c) the social-consultative distance which should be kept in business and general formal contacts.(Proshansky, M,H et al, pg.198)

These cultural rules act as guideline for individual behaviour. Sometimes an individual may like or dislike someone depending on the distance he keeps between them. In each zone individual has to follow different use of touch, smell, and hearing which are concerned as most important to some cultures than others.

What has considered comfortable distance for conversation varies from culture to culture? Watson and Graves (1966) by observation concluded that people in South America and Arabia is more direct face to face and touch one another more easily. They are thought to be high contact cultures while the Scotch Swedes are thought to be low-contact cultures.

Fellipe and Sommer (1966) did a library study, which was an observational study on personal space. The participants were women who did not know that was being observed. The women were studying in the library and the experimenter tried to violate their personal space by sitting next to them. The possibility for women to leave was greater when the experimenter was sitting next to them than when sitting two chairs away. A way for the students to keep their personal space was by putting books next to them as a barrier. (Gross pg386)

Argyle and Dean (1965) has pointed out that all individuals have a tendency to want to stay alone and independent from others. This is balanced, non-verbally in each social situation in which individuals find him self, so that an acceptable level of intimacy is tried to be found. In Sommer et all study the women felt discomfort because the situation became too intimate. (Gross pg. 387)

According to Sommer women have smaller zones of personal space than men have. When the personal space of an individual is being violated can cause discomfort. As Sommer says: The violation of personal space increases tension levels enormously. As Jacobs pointed out social situation individuals require a comfort zone of 6 to 8 square feet per person, and any violation of that space will cause a reaction (Sommer pg.27)

The aim of this research was to observe whether lone individuals would behave in an avoidance way quicker if their personal space was violated by one person than when it was violated by a number of people.

The hypotheses are:

H2-it is predicted that individuals will be likely to avoid their personal space being violated by three people than by one.

Ho-there will be no difference in the avoidance behaviour of individuals whether their personal space is violated by one person or by a number of people.


The research was a participant observation design. The variables are:

1) The number of violators, which has two levels:

a) 1 person

b) 3 people

2) The behaviour of the participants, which has two levels:

a) Avoidance

b) Non-avoidance

The hypotheses are:

Hi-it is predicted that individuals will be likely to avoid their personal space being violated by three people, then by one.

Ho-there will be no difference in the avoidance behaviour of individuals whether their personal space is violated by one person or by a number of people.


Four students were observed in the research. They were all North London University students. They were observed in the M-floor of Learning canter using opportunity sampling. They were not aware that they were taking part in the research.


The observation was conducted by a group of observers. The research took place in the M-floor of the Learning Center. The hall research took three hours to be completed, from 9.00a.m to 12.00a.m. All the participants were sitting in tables and they were studying.

The tables were for two, four, and six people. They were rectangular tables that were separated by cubicles. They were not very wide. The research was conducted in tables for four people and each side of the table was two chairs. One observer had a stop-watch to keep the time and another one had a notebook to note the participant’s behaviour.


The whole participants were 128 but each group had to observe 4 people. The research was conducted in the M-floor of the Learning Centre of North London University. The observers were five psychology students of UNL. The participants were four students of UNL and they were not aware that research was taken place on their behaviour. The research took place in the morning time from 9.00a.m to 12p.m.

One of the observers had to hold the time that was needed to characterize the behaviour of the participants as avoidance or non-avoidance. One other had to keep notes of the reaction that each participant had when his/her personal space was invaded. From the other three observers, one was taking part in all four trials. The other two were in the group trial. The observers were dressed informally as usual students.

The time was kept from the point that the observer sat in the chair. If the participant left before ten minutes, his behaviour was characterized as avoidance. If during these ten minutes, the participant had not left or had left and returned before ten minutes his behaviour was characterized as non-avoidance. In the first participant, the observer went and sat on the opposite side of the table diagonally. One observer was keeping time and one was keeping notes. The participant starts looking at the invader as it was annoyed by its presence.

The participant stopped keeping notes and she was kinetic. After two minutes had passed, she started putting her books in a column and after eight minutes, she left. Participant s personal space was invaded and it was shown with avoidance. In the next trial three observers sat in another table was another participant was studying.

The participant showed discomfort and after four minutes, left. It was again avoidance. After that one observer sat in a table, that one participant was studying. The observer sat diagonally in the opposite side of the table. The participant looked at the observer in a strange way and continued to study without showing any sign of being disturbed. Non-avoidance had occurred.

In the fourth and last trial three observers sat in a table was another participant was studying. The participant left at the third minute went to take a book and returned in the eight-minute. His behavior was non-avoidance.


The level of data is nominal. As it can be noticed from the results of the chi-square test, the chi-square is 5.375 with p-value=0.020


Example #2

Personal space was an idea first developed by German-born Swedish psychologist David Katz in 1937. It is very often described as an “emotionally charged bubble of space which surrounds each individual” or alternately “Personal space is the region surrounding a person which they regard as psychologically theirs. Most people value their personal space and feel discomfort, anger, or anxiety when their personal space has encroached.” On the other hand, some research suggests that the personal space bubble is not circular, but elliptical and so we can tolerate people coming closer to us at the side than front or behind.

Factors that influence personal space:


Males interacting with other males require the largest interpersonal distance, Men are more territorial and aggressive by nature and will keep more distance from other men, but when it comes to women we will usually prefer to get a little closer. This is then followed by females interacting with other females, which requires a little less space and distance as compared to just two men, as investigated by Gifford in 1987.

Women are also more sociable than men: they get social cues better, more emotionally expressive and are generally better than men when it comes to emotional communication. It’s only natural then that women will feel more comfortable being closer to each other than men. However, it probably depends on the situation, or the relationship, or the age group, and so on as well.


This is perhaps the most important factor when it comes to investigating the difference in an invasion of personal space. Hall (1959) identified the importance of cultural variation. He suggested that while all cultures use personal space to communicate, and tend to conform to the different categories, the size of the space within the categories varies across cultures. Hall also identified the essential issue in inter-cultural differences as the tendency to interpret invasions of personal space as an indication of aggression.

See also  Why I Want to be a Medical Assistant Essay

Some international examples of this are: ‘Distant’ cultures (northern Europe, US, and many other westerns cultures) tend to keep more personal space and use less touching than other more ‘warm’ cultures. Asian cultures are characterized as more accommodating and accepting attitudes when it comes to personal space, the theory says it’s due to more crowded living conditions.

Other cultures including south Europe, Middle East, and South American’s are considered to be more ‘warm’ by nature – touch and close proximity are more welcomed and socially accepted. Age- Some evidence suggests that personal space gets bigger as we grow older (Hayduk, 1983). Children tend to be quite happy to be physically close to each other, something which changes as awareness of adult sexuality develops. In addition the gender difference does tend to also appear at this time.


Status has a huge effect on your personal space size and demand. First of all, like the alpha male of the pack, the higher the status the more space is considered to be one’s (no surprise that the first class seats are bigger and have more space per individual!). Status also affects the size of the territory that is required. Just Like the kings of old owned a huge palace – not because they needed 20 bedrooms and an Olympic swimming pool, but because it showed the measure of their power and influence. In modern days we have the equivalent mansions of the rich and famous to demonstrate their wealth and rich lifestyle.


There is some evidence of personality difference but effects here need to be treated with caution given the situational dependence of traits. Extraverted and gregarious persons tend to require smaller personal space, while cold and quarrelsome people require a larger interpersonal distance (Gifford, 1982).

Urban vs. Rural

The amount of personal space someone needs is relative to the population density of where they live, for example, in sparsely populated areas people get more space than in densely populated areas; country people are used to living in a vast and mildly populated areas while city dwellers are more used to crowds. This means that city dweller will usually have a smaller personal space than country people due to this habit of density.

The distance someone extends his/her arm to shake hands gives us a clue whether he/she is from a rural or urban area. People from the city tend to have an 18-inch bubble which allows the hands to meet in neutral territory. People brought up in a town with a small population have a space bubble of up to a meter.

People from rural areas tend to stand with their feet firmly planted on the ground and lean forward for the handshake, whereas a city dweller will step forward to greet you. People raised in remote areas might require an even greater Personal Space, which could be as wide as 6 meters. They prefer to wave rather than shake hands.


Example #3

The sample essay on Personal Space Essay deals with a framework of research-based facts, approaches, and arguments concerning this theme. To see the essay’s introduction, body paragraphs, and conclusion, read on.

A within-participant experimental design was used to explore how uncomfortable an individual feels when approached by one or two people, this is measured when the individual says ‘stop’. The independent variable (IV) is whether there’s one person walking towards the participant or two people walking towards themselves, which were randomly assigned.

The order of the two conditions was counterbalanced so that half of the participants start with one condition and vice versa, counterbalancing the order in which they start with.

A table with odd and even numbers was used to randomly select the participant with the condition. The even numbers start with condition one where one person walks towards the individual, and the odd numbers start with condition two where two people walk towards the participant. The dependent variable (DV) is when the experimenter is told to stop when approaching the participant.

Participants This experiment consisted of 60 participants which were recruited from Nottingham, UK. An opportunity sample was used for the experiment. The sample compromised an equal ratio of males and females.

The participants were local university students. There were no exclusion criteria set for this experiment. The mean age of the sample was 19, with 30 males and 30 females. Materials This experiment consisted of a measuring tape that was used to measure the distance between the participant and the experimenter.

A set of standardized instructions along with the consent form were also used. A pen and paper to record the results and also the experimenters involved. Procedure Participants were asked whether or not they wanted to participate in the experiment.

Example Of Personal Space

The researcher then read aloud the instructions (see Appendix1), to which the participants filled out a consent form (see Appendix 2). Participants were then told that the experimenter will be approaching them and will be told to say ‘stop’ when they feel uncomfortable with the proximity. The experimenter stands 6 meters from the participant, in an open space.

They approach at a slow pace, making no facial expression and no eye contact. The participants will then have to say ‘stop’ when they feel uncomfortable, the space between them is measured and recorded in a table.

Some controls had to be kept consistent, for example, the standardized instructions and the ethical guidelines e. g, the right to withdraw and informed consent. In both conditions, the experimenter stays 6 meters away from the participant. Results The table below gives a summary of the distance between the experiment and the participant. Table 1:A table to show the difference in standard deviation, Mean, and Range of the distance between the experimenter and the participant. Condition Standard Deviation Mean Range T-test 1)One Researcher 12. 95 77. 47 50 1. 51 2)Two Researchers 17.

98 116. 6 81 Table 1 shows that when two researchers approach an individual they would say stop sooner because they feel uncomfortable in the presence of more than one person. The standard deviation and the mean were higher in condition two, where there were two experimenters than in condition one, where participants were only approached by only one experimenter.

The T-test was 1. 51, this shows there was an insignificant effect of crowding on personal space (t obt=1. 51, df=58, P<. 05) even though the participants said ‘stop’ sooner when there were two experimenters (Mean=77.

47, Standard Deviation=17. 98) than with only one participant (Mean=77. 47, Stand Deviation=12. 95). Discussion The results suggest that when two people are walking to an individual they will say ‘stop’ sooner, and when one person is walking towards a person they will say ‘stop’ later. The results support the background literature.

This experiment supported the hypothesis, it also provided valuable data. The purpose of this experiment was to see the effects of crowding on personal space and how uncomfortable participants felt about the number of people approaching them.

The hypothesis was that participants would say ‘stop’ sooner if two experimenters were walking towards them then just one. There have been numerous studies to support the fact that crowding does affect a person’s personal space. A study done by Cochran and Urbanczyk (1982), conducted an experiment on 2 conditions using a stop-distance technique.

The results showed that in high-ceiling conditions, the participants needed less personal pace than in low-ceiling conditions. Another experiment was done by Gary. T. Long (1984) showed that participants in higher tension situations preferred a greater distance from others.

There were limitations involved with this study, the number of pf participants was too few, therefore having more participants may have produced a greater variability amongst the results. Another limitation is regarding the location, it could have been more crowded with more noise, with some participants and not others.

Intimidation could have been another factor affecting the experiment by the presence of the researchers and the distance varies according to many factors, one of them being the relationship of the people involved. The limitations mentioned above could be one of the many reasons why the T-test was insignificant.

There are examples of everyday life in relation to crowding on personal space and how people feel uncomfortable when approached by a group of individuals. For example, when a gang of youths approaches one individual the world feels scared and uncomfortable, then if one person approaches an individual and asks for the time; they would feel at ease.

However, there are many other factors that affect a person’s personal space it depends on the age of the individual, the sex, race, amount of individuals walking up to a person, and the appearance.

However different people have different interpretations of what uncomfortable is for them, therefore cannot be certain on when they feel uncomfortable and say ‘stop’, therefore cannot measure it properly. These differences of interpretations can lead to a misunderstanding amongst the researchers from different cultures, the environment also affects one’s perception of what uncomfortable is for them. Some people might feel uncomfortable with one experimenter walking up to them than two.

To conclude from this, different things could be changed in doing this experiment again, a different location could be used. If this experiment were to be repeated, there are a few things that should be changed. For example, choosing a different location; this could have been approached by prior research to obtain knowledge of what places are most/least populated.

The conclusion of this experiment was consistent with past research. Although this experiment ended with an insignificant T-test, the information gathered from the results can help future research on the effects of crowding on personal space.


Example #4

In most social situations North Americans require a comfort zone of six to eight square feet per person, and any violation of that buffer can trigger a reaction (Bowen). “People use avoidance responses,” says Robert Sommer, a psychologist at the University of California-Davis and author of the book Personal Space (qtd. in Bowen). But where does the standard of personal space come from? According to Sommer, “a comfortable distance for conversation varies from culture to culture.

Because the Mediterranean and Asian countries are more densely populated, their personal space zones are much closer to the body than those of North Americans and Northern Europeans (qtd. in Bowen). The westerns are certainly planning on keeping this standard in the future. In fact, the world’s population is increasing at an incredible rate. Even the country offers its citizens plenty of spaces everywhere; they have to learn to make compromises on their personal space not only to accept the inevitable reality but also for the benefit of this compromise.

First of all, urban Americans should make compromises on personal space when they are using public transportations. The New York City subway system is a really great representative example of personal space; the total number of urban citizens is more than 18 million, thus making the subway system extremely crowded every day. But even during the rush hours, the passengers are still careful about their distance with the others.

See also  Subway Vs McDonald's Essay

If one person has a minor physical contact with someone and doesn’t express the apology, the other person will raise their voice instantly and say “excuse me” and certainly feels offended. This is totally unnecessary, especially during rush hours, because some people might be late for work or school already, and someone might be thinking about today’s schedule. The rest of them are doing things that indeed catch their attention. Under such circumstances, it’s highly possible for passengers to have minor physical contact with others out of negligence they don’t notice.

On the other hand, there is Shanghai, the second-largest city in China with more than 20 million residents and most of them use the subway for daily transportation. It’s even more crowded compared to the New York City subway. So close to each other with their shoulders and backs, passengers may nudge 2 or 3 persons at the same time, and they have been totally adapted to this situation without any discomfort. The Tokyo subway system passengers have even less personal space during the rush hours.

The metro staff will push the passengers back so that more people will have the opportunity to get in the train in the morning. What are the passengers’ reactions? They don’t feel offended at all. They are actually grateful because all of them can get to work on time, and their personal sacrifice is helping many people.

Their joint efforts make the subway system much more efficient and indeed prevent lots of unpleasant arguments. “When they’re moving, they tend to keep a distance of three or four steps so as not to violate each other’s personal space,” said Larry Gould, director of operations analysis at New York City Transit (qtd. in Gardy).

But the sheer density of the population is giving the Chinese a very different sense of personal space (Toy, 2). “Personal spaces overlap,” said Stuart Strother, an economist who has lived in China and who wrote a travel guide, “Living Abroad in China”. “It’s not that you don’t have any personal space, but I may have to share your space,” he said. Perhaps as a consequence, Strother said, pointing at and touching people, even total strangers, is not considered rude (Toy).

There’s also another interesting phenomenon. You will never see two strangers sitting together in the New York City subway if there’s empty space somewhere else. The definition for “empty” means nobody is sitting next to you, and there’s at least one seat separating you from your surroundings. Most of the time, even during rush hours, passengers prefer to stand rather than take the single-seat between two passengers. Based on Robert Sommer’s theory, “The violation of personal space increases tension levels enormously (qtd. in Bowen)”.

In other words, urban Americans prefer to sacrifice many things in order to sustain their high standard of personal space. But with the expansion of population, Americans eventually have to make compromises on personal space. So why not prepare to adjust the situation ahead of time? There’re also many benefits if they’re willing to do so. The most direct benefit is to increase the capacity of the train; more passengers can get on the train if most of them are willing to have less personal space. On top of that, more empty seats will be occupied if they sit close to each other.

The amounts of seats are designed for a reason; it’s common to see 3 people occupy 4 or more seats. They sit apart simply because they want to have more personal space. Nothing bad will happen if Americans make compromises on personal space. Urban Americans don’t need to create those invisible walls to protect themselves. They probably waste a great opportunity to make new friends sitting away from each other in the subway. Society will be filled with harmony and peace if people are not so suspicious and stop creating those invisible walls subconsciously.

Lots of Americans are having a hard time adjusting to Chinese culture during their visit in Chinese cities. Some locals may come to them in order to take photos with the foreigners. Other locals are probably looking at the foreigners out of curiosity. Those actions are really common in China but the Americans are quite sensitive to those actions and sometimes feel offended. Their invisible walls are necessary to isolate them but indeed increase the tension levels. Americans’ perceptions and standards of personal space are definitely hard to change, but if they do, it always comes with a greater good.

The United States is currently the No.1 country in the world, which receives millions of immigrants every year. By receiving those immigrants, the United States not only receives the knowledge but also accepts their different cultural standards. Urban Americans can neither apply all the American standards to new immigrants nor expect them to adopt the entire standards by themselves. Personal space is only the tip of the iceberg, but it’s fairly important to live in the big cultural melting pot of New York. Subway passengers are highly diversified, and they’re probably people from 50 different countries taking the same train at the same time.

According to Shuhan Wang, the executive director for Chinese language initiatives at the Asia Society, there’s an old Chinese saying “you treat other people’s elderly as if they’re your own, and you treat other people’s children as if they’re your own∙∙∙ So in a way, everybody in society is extended family” (qtd. in Toy). This is a good concept that urban Americans should take a look at to make compromises. By lowering the standard of personal space, it will be easier for foreign immigrants to be part of the society, and lower standards are always easier to be adopted gradually.

The standards of personal space can also be interpreted through a sociological perspective. According to Robert Pepper, a sociology professor at the New York Institute of Technology, conflict theory can be used to explain the standards of personal space because people are competing for scarce resources; every single passenger would like to have some extra space in the subway especially during the rush hour. He used the term “ethnocentrism” to suggest that Americans to make compromises on personal space. He believes Americans should not place their own cultural group above the rest.

The standards of personal space are definitely different based on the culture, and the Americans should respect all customs and religions. “Chinese society emphasizes a collective mentality over an individualistic one,” said Stuart Strother (qtd. in Toy). But the American culture is exactly the opposite, thus making it even harder for urban Americans to accept. Having the idea of individualism, Americans are rewarded for behaving independently, making their own plans, and working toward achieving their personal goals. Under such circumstances, individuals are hired and promoted largely based on individual achievement and qualifications (“Culture”).

And the Americans expand this idea of individualism into all areas; they want to be unique, to be easily distinguished from the crowd, and a high standard of personal space is definitely necessary. Chinese people are different, they emphasize the idea of the group, and everyone in the group shares things equally, so no one is necessarily better than the rest. People will stay together to achieve the group goal. No one wants to be unique because if you are unique that means you are isolated.

The overall impact of high population density and the idea of big groups are helping the Chinese adjust the lower standard of personal space in the long run. If Americans could learn some of the concepts, it will be much easier for them to make personal sacrifices in exchange for the greater good of society. But some people may argue that a lack of personal space can indicate people’s lack of manners and this is not right. In Lee, Patrick P’s article “Rush Hour,” he introduced his own life experience in Hong Kong which at the time was still a British colony.

Hong Kong adopted the language, social order, peoples’ perceptions of things, and especially manners. They are taught with the British gentlemen’s style, but on the other hand, there’s no need to say “excuse me” in the subway, or any doorway. The locals aren’t being rude when they invade your personal space. They simply need to go everywhere, nowhere, fast. In tiny and overcrowded Hong Kong, the concept of “personal space” is a luxury that one can’t afford and probably doesn’t exist (Lee, 2).

This kind of situation will eventually happen in big US cities. If they’re making the compromise now, it can be beneficial in the long run. The United States doesn’t have mandatory birth control which will inevitably make the population expand even faster, and as a result, the personal space will shrink. So to be prepared ahead of time is always a good thing. The younger generation will have different mindsets in the future in order to adjust the situation. Driven by individualism, urban Americans are treating their personal space as one of their birthrights.

It’s complicated even verbally to ask them to make compromises on their personal space. But the whole world population just passed 7 billion 1 month ago; this inevitable reality should give urban Americans a wakeup call. If they choose to live in the big cities, they’re going to have to face the overcrowded society. They’re going to feel disappointed because their old standards cannot apply anymore. So, make the changes of mind from now and it will eventually give them greater benefits.

They can have a good mood to start the new day with the crowded subway if they’re willing to make minor sacrifices on personal space. They’re still very gentle persons even they sit next to someone because the society accepts the different mind and adapt to the situation of the fast expanded population and less personal space.

Foreigners won’t feel the indivisible walls anymore because urban Americans don’t need them anymore. The whole society could be filled with harmony and urban Americans could be living more like a big family.


Example #5

What if you are traveling on a bus, and once the bus makes its stop; another man walks in, past all the available seats, and takes a seat right next to you? He then falls asleep, leaning his head onto your shoulder.

How bizarre would that be? If you are an American, then you are aware that the concept of respecting personal space is a social norm, making that scenario a bit out of the norm. On the contrary, if you are Chinese, it may be acceptable.

See also  Hoodie Stereotype Essay

Just place my boyfriend in the above scenario, traveling on a bus, in China, when a Chinese man walks in and falls asleep on his shoulder. I found it quite interesting that in China, the concept of personal space is nonexistent.

Perhaps the following experiment I conducted would be nothing out of the ordinary norm in other countries. I decided to do a little experiment where I would violate personal space. This is a norm that acts as a mechanism of social control by teaching us to avoid conflict or confrontation.

There are a variety of possible reactions that people can have to the violation of this norm.

There are those who will walk, or inch away when they feel their personal space has been invaded. Some will turn and look directly at the “invader.” Others will ignore completely, and there are those who deliberately speak their mind, not hesitating to tell you that you have violated their personal space. I predict that the major reaction I may get will be individuals ignoring my act of violation and perhaps inching away and trying to get away from me, as I invade their personal space.

I decided to conduct my little experiment at Wal-Mart with the help of my boyfriend so that I could observe the behavior of the individual(s) and he could observe the behavior of the onlooker/audience. We walked into Wal-Mart, and as I walked over to the sale rack, I noticed a teenage girl rummaging through the rack of sale items. I then moved close to her, and as I was behind her, peered over her shoulder to take a look at what she was looking at. She immediately moved, without making any eye contact.

My boyfriend later told me that she turned around and looked at me in disbelief as I walked away. I then followed a mother and her toddler with their cart, being cautious to stay within close proximity of them. It wasn’t long before she turned around and looked at me and moved over to her right as if allowing me to pass her. There was a lady who looked to be in her late forties who was browsing through the aisle of towels.

As this lady leaned over to pick a towel up, I leaned over and picked the same towel up. Surprisingly, she didn’t look at me. She then walked over to the floor mats, and I followed closely behind her. She stopped and stood to look at them when I followed her gaze, and grabbed the floor mat which she seemed to be looking directly at.

She then turned her face to look at me, and I walked away with the floor mat in my hand with a smile. We later made our way over to the cash register to purchase two boxes of Betty Crocker’s brownies, when I noticed an older lady in her early fifties, ahead of me, paying at the register. The cashier gave her the total, and as she was peering over the card reader, looking at the total, I inched close enough to her so that we were standing elbow to elbow. This lady turned around and looked directly into my eyes and said, “Do you mind giving me my personal space?” I then responded, “Sure!” I took one step back; as she was watching me, she responded, “thank you.

“During the duration of my experiment, I felt as if I was violating the norm. I felt a bit awkward, and was a bit skeptical, pondering on the thought of the various reactions I could face. I felt as if I was being rude by invading the personal space of another individual, especially being that I am not one to make eye contact with a stranger in any public place. I felt the need to apologize to the woman at the cash register.

I felt that standing directly next to her was a bit confrontational. We are taught to act and carry ourselves a certain way by following societal norms. Violating another’s personal space can imply something negative. Especially as norms exercise social control by teaching us consideration, and teaching us to avoid unnecessary conflict, especially in a country where we have the freedom of democracy.

I appreciate the fact that we have an understanding of the concept of personal space because it gives us a sense of security. I am simply comfortable with it, and couldn’t begin to comprehend if the situation in China was reversed, and I would have been in a place of my boyfriend!


Example #6 – Psychology personal space

The aim of my coursework is to investigate gender differences in the amount of personal space people need.

Personal space is described as an invisible bubble that surrounds us. And that it changes shape and size depending on where we are and who we are with. Defensible space is described as a physical space that surrounds us and you want to protect it. Gender is the difference between sexes. The method is what happens in the experiment. The aim is what you hope to find in the experiment. Findings are what they find out in the experiment and the conclusion is a summary of what has happened.

I am now going to describe 2 studies and theory into personal space. I will start with a theory from Bell (1996).  “Thus personal space is like a bubble. It changes shape depending on the situation we find our self’s in”, Bell defined personal space as a portable, invisible boundary surrounding us, into which others may not trespass. It regulates how closely we interact with others. It moves with and expands and contracts according to the situation in which we find our self’s in. One study I am going to talk about Middlemist (1976).

The aim of his study was to see what effects personal space had in a men’s public toilet. They place 2 men at a time in different situations and measured how long it took for them to urinate. They found out that the closer the men are together, the longer it takes for them to start to urinate and less time to complete. The conclusion to that was that the more personal space invaded the more effect it has on a man’s bladder. There are some criticisms. One of them is that they did not give consent to go ahead with the experiment.

Another study I will be talking about is Little (1968). He examined cultural differences over 19 different social situations in a sample of Americans, Swedes, Greeks, Italians, and Scots. They had to place dolls at distances that reflected where they would stand in real social situations. The situations they had to assess included two good friends talking about a pleasant topic, a shop owner discussing the weather with his assistant, and two strangers talking about an unpleasant topic. Below is a figure showing the average distances over the 19 different social situations:

personal space essay

The results chart shows that women have a smaller personal space than men and that the nationality that has the smallest personal space is the Scots.

My hypothesis is that women have a smaller personal space than men. The studies I have looked at so far agree with my hypothesis. My hypothesis is a directional hypothesis; this is because I am predicting that women have a smaller personal space than men.

After analyzing my results I found out that females have a smaller personal space than males. I asked how they would react to certain people in different situations.

The first question I asked was ‘In an upset situation, how close would you let your mum near you?’ My results show that all the females I asked said they didn’t mind their mums to touch them; one male said that he would prefer his mum to be 3 meters away. This shows that females have a smaller personal space than males in this situation.

The second question I asked was ‘How close would you let your sibling in a normal situation?’ I found out that 2 males do not mind siblings touching them and only 1 female preferred their sibling to touch them. My results show that most females prefer to have some distance from their siblings. The next question I asked was about a stranger that they had met in town, most of the participants said they would prefer to be at least 1 meter away.

I asked another question on the same topic about strangers, I asked how close they would let a homeless person near you. Most people said they would like a lot of distance between them. A brief conclusion to these questions is that most people prefer strangers to be at a distance, males more than females.

The 5th question I asked was ‘How close would you let your best friend near you when you are angry?’ my results show that about half of the participants would prefer them not to touch them. The last question I asked was; how close would you let a waiter near you? The results show that most of the males would want them at a distance, and females would prefer them at the same distance.

My results agree with my hypothesis because I asked does gender affect personal space, my results show that males have a bigger personal space than females, showing that gender does affect personal space.

There was no problem in collecting participants, requiring materials and asking the questions. One advantage of my experiment was my way of collecting the information worked well and I was able to analyze the information and produce a table very easily.

If I could do this experiment again I would like to have more money, go out into the public and perform my experiment to the public, and not just from one social group and I would have 100+ people rather than 10 people, resulting in me receiving a large amount of data from a wide variety of people.

The majority of my results matched my background research; all of my questions asked gave the results that women have a bigger personal space than men, apart from one, question two which gave me the answer that men have a bigger personal space than women.

Cite this page

Choose cite format:
Personal Space Essay. (2020, Sep 24). Retrieved February 7, 2023, from