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Human Spatial Behaviour: The Spacing of People, Objects and Animals in Six Cross-Cultural Samples

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This study examines the principles we apply, when people, objects and animals are to be organized in relation to other representatives of their kind. Most cross-cultural studies on personal space focus on cultural differences, but here we look for proxetics (universals) as well as proxemics (cultural differences). 793 subjects from six countries (Greenland, Finland, Denmark, Italy, India and Cameroon) situated in four different climate zones are tested with a projective simulation measure (the 'IPROX'). A number of cross-cultural similarities are documented, and it is suggested that six of these are examples of high-level universals in the sense of Norenzayan and Heine (2005). But spacing also differs, and participants from Greenland, Finland, and Denmark systematically keep a larger interpersonal distance than subjects from Italy, India and Cameroon, which confirms the classic difference between southern 'contact-cultures' and northern 'low-contact cultures'. It is documented how personal space shrinks or expands depending on context and depending on whether a person occupies a territory or arrives at a territory occupied by somebody else. Personal space may even 'rub off ' on a person's belongings, and this opens up for a whole new area of spatial relations not studied before.

Affiliations: 1: Department of Psychology, Aarhus University, Jens Chr. Skousvej 4, DK-8000 Aarhus, Denmark


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