Expectancy Violation Theory - Intimate in an Elevator - Not!

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Running head: INTIMATE ELEVATOR

Intimate in an Elevator – Not!
Intimate in an Elevator – Not!
How often do you take an elevator to get to your destination? In looking at a typical week, I use elevators at a minimum thirty times. During each elevator ride, I adhere to a set of rules governing elevator etiquette. These rules, based on common sense, were not presented to me in written form, but were learned over time through communicating with others. Some of the more common elevator rules include waiting for passengers to exit prior to boarding, holding the door for someone who is just seconds away, not talking on cell phones, keeping personal information to yourself, and, as much as possible, allowing others around you their personal space. This paper will focus on the last rule, allowing others around you their personal space. Space expectations are often violated while riding in elevators. I have chosen to analyze space violation with the Expectancy Violation Theory (EVT). Since space violations often involve intimate and personal space expectancies being violated, it is considered part of the socio-psychological communication tradition and is associated with the intra and interpersonal communication contexts. One day I joined three other co-workers for lunch. We entered the parking garage elevator at the third floor level, pressed the button for the ninth floor, and stood against the back wall. Three additional passengers boarded the elevator bringing the total number of people on the elevator to seven. This number of passengers in this particular elevator would have allowed for everyone in the elevator to have a comfortable amount of space for the ride to his or her floor. A man from the second group that entered the elevator stood directly in front of one of my co-workers named Ross. He was standing with his back only inches away from Ross’s face. The man had plenty of room to move forward in the elevator but chose not to. He stood so close that there was no room for Ross to move without the two of them touching. Ross remained still for a few seconds thinking the man would move forward. As the elevator began ascending, the man did not move. Ross made several attempts to make sure his presence in the elevator was more conspicuous including clearing his throat and talking to us. I could see the look on Ross’s face and was aware of his immediate tension formed by this person’s actions as well as the resulting irritation when the person would not move. Once we all were able to exit the elevator, Ross made the comment, “I am not sure but I think I just got married.” We all laughed and continued on our way to lunch. Obviously, in this scenario, the other elevator passenger unduly violated Ross’s intimate space expectations while riding in the elevator. Space violations are socio-psychological traditions since they are based on a cause and effect communication. The effect felt by one individual is caused by the actions, or lack thereof, of another. The space expectation violations that occur in elevators work within the intra and interpersonal contexts since one person feels the violation internally when involved in direct verbal and/or nonverbal communication with another. The socio-psychological tradition and intra/interpersonal contexts align with the Expectancy Violation Theory. This theory focuses on one’s body language when others act as they are expected to or deviate from those expectations. If someone violates our space, our non-verbal reaction will either reward or punish them for their actions. To properly use EVT to analyze this event, there needs to be an understanding of space (proxemic zones) and territories. The four proxemic zones identified by Hall (1966) include intimate, personal, social and public distances. The three types of territories that exist are primary, secondary, and public (Altman, 1975; Lyman, 1990). The Expectancy Violation Theory...
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