The term “proxemics” was coined in 1966 by anthropologist Edward T. Hall. The term is used to describe the study of how people perceive the proximity of others. Hall developed the idea of a set of expanding circles, which he called reaction bubbles. These describe how humans manage the space around them. The following is a list of terms he used to describe these spaces: 1.
Intimate space, which is reserved for those we are closest to (measuring about 6 to 18 inches). 2.
Personal space, which is the distance we are comfortable maintaining with close friends (about 1.5 to 4 feet). 3.
Social space, which indicates our preferred proximity to acquaintances (about 5–12 feet). 4.
Public space, which is the distance we need for public speaking (12–25 feet or more). The distances in which people feel comfortable vary from culture to culture. Some societies value individualism and require more personal space. Whereas other cultures view excessive distance as rude or unfriendly. (Unknown, 2007)
As one who grew up in a small Wyoming town of 350 people, I remember feeling the culture shock of social space differences when I moved to Denver in 1978. My ideal personal and social space was probably double that proposed in Hall’s reaction bubble theory. In Denver, I found myself in an apartment building near Colfax and Xenia. In Meeteetse, Wyoming they had motels but no apartment buildings. The motel rooms back home were really just different cabins scattered around, so people were not one on top of another. Everybody knew everybody and noticed whenever a stranger was in town. In Denver there were so many unfamiliar faces everywhere. Neighbors in our apartment building were closely packed but not as friendly as I expected.
The article on the internet that I found (Unknown, 2007) also goes on to say that people learn coping mechanisms to help deal with not being able to keep preferred distance from others. In my ventures out into the courtyard adjoining the...
Cited: Unknown. (2007, February 15). Interesting Thing of the Day: Proxemics. Retrieved March 13, 2011, from Interesting Thing of the Day: http://itotd.com/articles/620/proxemics/
Wood, J. T. (2010). Interpersonal Communication: Everyday Encounters. Boston, MA: Wadsworth.
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