PREFERRED INTERPERSONAL DISTANCES: A GLOBAL COMPARISON

Article (PDF Available)inJournal of Cross-Cultural Psychology 48(4):002202211769803 · March 2017with 18,880 Reads 
How we measure 'reads'
A 'read' is counted each time someone views a publication summary (such as the title, abstract, and list of authors), clicks on a figure, or views or downloads the full-text. Learn more
DOI: 10.1177/0022022117698039
Cite this publication
Abstract
Human spatial behavior has been the focus of hundreds of previous research studies. However, the conclusions and generalizability of previous studies on interpersonal distance preferences were limited by some important methodological and sampling issues. The objective of the present study was to compare preferred interpersonal distances across the world and to overcome the problems observed in previous studies. We present an extensive analysis of interpersonal distances over a large data set (N = 8,943 participants from 42 countries). We attempted to relate the preferred social, personal, and intimate distances observed in each country to a set of individual characteristics of the participants, and some attributes of their cultures. Our study indicates that individual characteristics (age and gender) influence interpersonal space preferences and that some variation in results can be explained by temperature in a given region. We also present objective values of preferred interpersonal distances in different regions, which might be used as a reference data point in future studies.
https://doi.org/10.1177/0022022117698039
Journal of Cross-Cultural Psychology
2017, Vol. 48(4) 577 –592
© The Author(s) 2017
Reprints and permissions:
sagepub.com/journalsPermissions.nav
DOI: 10.1177/0022022117698039
journals.sagepub.com/home/jcc
Article
Preferred Interpersonal Distances:
A Global Comparison
Agnieszka Sorokowska1, Piotr Sorokowski1, Peter Hilpert2,
Katarzyna Cantarero3, Tomasz Frackowiak1, Khodabakhsh
Ahmadi4, Ahmad M. Alghraibeh5, Richmond Aryeetey6, Anna
Bertoni7, Karim Bettache8, Sheyla Blumen9, Marta Błażejewska1,
Tiago Bortolini10,11, Marina Butovskaya12,13,14, Felipe Nalon
Castro15, Hakan Cetinkaya16, Diana Cunha17, Daniel David18,
Oana A. David18, Fahd A. Dileym5, Alejandra del Carmen
Domínguez Espinosa19, Silvia Donato7, Daria Dronova12, Seda
Dural20, Jitka Fialová21, Maryanne Fisher22, Evrim Gulbetekin23,
Aslıhan Hamamcıoğlu Akkaya24, Ivana Hromatko25, Raffaella
Iafrate7, Mariana Iesyp26, Bawo James27, Jelena Jaranovic28, Feng
Jiang29, Charles Obadiah Kimamo30, Grete Kjelvik31, Fırat Koç24,
Amos Laar6, Fívia de Araújo Lopes15, Guillermo Macbeth32,
Nicole M. Marcano33, Rocio Martinez34, Norbert Mesko35, Natalya
Molodovskaya1, Khadijeh Moradi36, Zahrasadat Motahari37,
Alexandra Mühlhauser38, Jean Carlos Natividade39, Joseph
Ntayi40, Elisabeth Oberzaucher38, Oluyinka Ojedokun41, Mohd
Sofian Bin Omar-Fauzee42, Ike E. Onyishi43, Anna Paluszak1,
Alda Portugal17, Eugenia Razumiejczyk32, Anu Realo44,45, Ana
Paula Relvas17, Maria Rivas46, Muhammad Rizwan47, Svjetlana
Salkičević25, Ivan Sarmány-Schuller48, Susanne Schmehl38, Oksana
Senyk26, Charlotte Sinding49, Eftychia Stamkou50, Stanislava
Stoyanova51, Denisa Šukolová52, Nina Sutresna53, Meri Tadinac25,
Andero Teras54, Edna Lúcia Tinoco Ponciano55, Ritu Tripathi56,
Nachiketa Tripathi57, Mamta Tripathi57, Olja Uhryn58, Maria Emília
Yamamoto15, Gyesook Yoo59, and John D. Pierce , Jr.33
Abstract
Human spatial behavior has been the focus of hundreds of previous research studies. However, the
conclusions and generalizability of previous studies on interpersonal distance preferences were limited
by some important methodological and sampling issues. The objective of the present study was to
compare preferred interpersonal distances across the world and to overcome the problems observed
in previous studies. We present an extensive analysis of interpersonal distances over a large data set
(N = 8,943 participants from 42 countries). We attempted to relate the preferred social, personal, and
intimate distances observed in each country to a set of individual characteristics of the participants, and
some attributes of their cultures. Our study indicates that individual characteristics (age and gender)
influence interpersonal space preferences and that some variation in results can be explained by
temperature in a given region. We also present objective values of preferred interpersonal distances
in different regions, which might be used as a reference data point in future studies.
698039JCCXXX10.1177/0022022117698039Journal of Cross-Cultural PsychologySorokowska et al.
research-article2017
578 Journal of Cross-Cultural Psychology 48(4)
Keywords
interpersonal distance, spatial behavior, culture, cultural psychology
1University of Wroclaw, Poland
2University of Washington, Seattle, WA, USA
3SWPS University of Social Sciences and Humanities, Sopot, Poland
4Baqiyatallah University of Medical Sciences, Tehran, Iran
5King Saud University, Riyadh, Saudi Arabia
6University of Ghana, Legon, Ghana
7Catholic University of Milan, Italy
8The Chinese University of Hong Kong, Shatin, Hong Kong
9Pontificia Universidad Católica Del Perú, Lima, Peru
10Federal University of Rio de Janeiro, Brazil
11D’Or Institute for Research and Education, Rio de Janeiro, Brazil
12Institute of Ethnology and Anthropology RAS, Moscow, Russia
13Russian State University for the Humanities, Russia
14Moscow State University, Russia
15Federal University of Rio Grande do Norte, Natal, Brazil
16Ankara University, Turkey
17University of Coimbra, Portugal
18Babes-Bolyai University, Cluj-Napoca, Romania
19Universidad Iberoamericana Ciudad de Mexico, Mexico
20Izmir University of Economics, Izmir, Turkey
21Charles University, Prague, Czech Republic
22Saint Mary’s University, Halifax, Nova Scotia, Canada
23Akdeniz University, Antalya, Turkey
24Cumhuriyet University, Sivas, Turkey
25University of Zagreb, Croatia
26Ivan Franko National University of Lviv, Ukraine
27Federal Neuro-Psychiatric Hospital, Benin City, Nigeria
28University of Belgrade, Serbia
29Central University of Finance and Economics, Beijing, China
30University of Nairobi, Kenya
31Norwegian University of Science and Technology, Trondheim, Norway
32National University of Entre Rios, Concepción del Uruguay, Argentina
33Philadelphia University, PA, USA
34University of Granada, Spain
35University of Pécs, Hungary
36Razi University, Kermanshah, Iran
37University of Science and Culture, Tehran, Iran
38University of Vienna, Austria
39Pontifical Catholic University of Rio de Janeiro, Brazil
40Makerere University Business School, Kampala, Uganda
41Adekunle Ajasin University, Akungba-Akoko, Nigeria
42Universiti Utara Malaysia, Sintok, Malaysia
43University of Nigeria, Nsukka, Nigeria
44University of Warwick, Coventry, UK
45University of Tartu, Estonia
46Universidad del Magdalena, Santa Marta, Colombia
47University of Karachi, Pakistan
48Constantine the Philosopher University in Nitra, Slovakia
49TU Dresden, Germany
50University of Amsterdam, The Netherlands
51South-West University “Neofit Rilski,” Blagoevgrad, Bulgaria
52Matej Bel University in Banská Bystrica, Slovakia
53Universitas Pendidikan Indonesia, Bandung, Indonesia
54Mõttemaru OÜ, Tartu, Estonia
55Rio de Janeiro State University, Brazil
56Indian Institute of Management Bangalore, India
57Indian Institute of Technology Guwahati, India
58Lviv State University of Internal Affairs, Ukraine
59Kyung Hee University, Seoul, South Korea
Corresponding Author:
Agnieszka Sorokowska, Institute of Psychology, University of Wroclaw, ul. Dawida 1, 50-527 Wroclaw, Poland.
Email: sorokowska@gmail.com
Sorokowska et al. 579
Introduction
Interpersonal space, or interpersonal distance, is an essential feature of individuals’ social behav-
ior in relation to their physical environment and social interactions (Hall, 1966; Hayduk, 1983).
It is a distance we maintain in interpersonal interactions, or in other words, “breathing space,” an
abstract area that surrounds each individual (Hall, 1966; Madanipour, 2003; Sommer, 1969),
comparable with either a shell, a soap bubble, or aura (Sommer, 1969). According to Hall (1966),
this space helps regulate intimacy in social situations by controlling sensory exposure. The pos-
sibility of increased visual, tactile, auditory, and olfactory stimulation is enhanced at closer dis-
tances, and people may feel intruded and react negatively when others adopt and maintain too
close of an interpersonal distance (Felipe & Sommer, 1966; Hall, 1966; Mazur, 1977; Sawada,
2003; Smith, 1981; Sommer, 1969).
Classifying Social Distance
The classical proxemic theory (Hall, 1966) classifies interpersonal distance into four categories,
each of which reflects a different relationship between individuals (Baldassare & Feller, 1975).
These four types of distance are (a) public distance (above 210 cm; in this distance, voice shifts
to higher volumes, and eye contact is minimized); (b) social distance, maintained during more
formal interactions (122-210 cm, this distance precludes all but visual and auditory stimuli); (c)
personal distance, maintained during interactions with friends (about 46-122 cm, vision is no
longer blurred, vocalizations increase); and (d) intimate distance, maintained in close relation-
ships (from 0 to 46 cm, this distance is characterized by poor and blurred vision, and increased
perception of heat and olfactory stimuli; Hall, 1966).
Based on Hall’s (1966) theory, the interpersonal distance people choose while interacting with
others depends not only on the personal attitude toward another person but also on certain char-
acteristics of dyads, like their gender or age, and the social environment where the interaction
takes place. Indeed, studies confirm that the preferred interpersonal distance might be influenced
by gender (Aiello, 1987; Horenstein & Downey, 2003; Ozdemir, 2008; Patterson & Edinger,
1987; Smith, 1981; Vranic, 2003). Furthermore, age seems to be an important factor for predict-
ing dyad distances (Aiello, 1987; Burgess, 1983; Gérin-Lajoie, Richards, & McFadyen, 2006;
Ozdemir, 2008; Rapp & Gutzmann, 2000; Webb & Weber, 2003); younger people generally
prefer closer interpersonal distances than older individuals.
According to Hall’s (1966) theory, cultural norms are the most important factors to describe
the preferred social distance. Hall stated that what is intimate in one culture may be personal or
social in another, and suggested that there are specific customs regarding the spatial behavior. He
grouped the cultures into two different classes: contact and noncontact cultures. Contact cultures
use closer interpersonal distances and engage in more touching, whereas people in noncontact
cultures exhibit opposite preferences and behaviors (Hall, 1966). The general rule of grouping
suggested by Hall was the geographic location, with Southern European, Latin American, and
Arabian countries being the so-called contact cultures, and North America, Northern Europe, and
Asian populations being the noncontact cultures (Hall, 1966). Although Hall’s theory was fre-
quently supported just by anecdotal evidence (see Baldassare & Feller, 1975), this notion consti-
tuted a basis for classical research on the cultural effects on human spatial behaviors. Below, we
present a short overview of the previous findings and conclude with proposing some variables
that could possibly account for previously observed variability.
Cultural Differences
Early cross-cultural research on spatial behaviors indicates that contact and noncontact groups
differ significantly in preferred social distance. Studies show that Mediterranean societies prefer
580 Journal of Cross-Cultural Psychology 48(4)
closer interactive distances than Northern European and Northern American societies (Evans &
Howard, 1973; Ford & Graves, 1977; Hayduk, 1983; Little, 1968; Triandis & Triandis, 1967;
Watson & Graves, 1966). Notably, many of these early cross-cultural studies were performed in
the United States with foreign and native students as participants (Baldassare & Feller, 1975).
Although some results were later confirmed (Beaulieu, 2004; Evans, Lepore, & Allen, 2000;
Remland, Jones, & Brinkman, 1995; Sommer, 2002), other empirical findings do not fully sup-
port the notion that interpersonal distances are closer in Southern European, Latin American, and
Arab countries than in North America, Northern Europe, and Asian populations (Forston &
Larson, 1968; Mazur, 1977; Remland et al., 1995). The original classification of Asian societies
as predominantly noncontact is also problematic given the mixed results of previous studies
(Beaulieu, 2004; Sussman & Rosenfeld, 1982; Watson, 1970). Furthermore, the spacing prefer-
ences in African countries have never been examined.
While showing variability of interpersonal distancing across cultures, previous results lack expla-
nations as to why this variability occurs. It is an open question whether the division of cultures onto
contact/noncontact based on geographical location is a detailed enough grouping rule for all popula-
tions across the globe, especially given that contact norms can vary widely across countries within
the same continent even though they share cultural similarities (Shuter, 1976). It is likely that what
has been explained in terms of vaguely defined cultural norms is underpinned by some psychological
and ecological variables. Thus, we consider here several new variables that could be enumerated as
distinguishing the countries that were previously found to be contact and noncontactenvironmen-
tal factors (temperature of the inhabited region, parasite stress in a given country, and population
growth rate) and sociopsychological factors (collectivism/individualism level, and wealth of the
society, defined as Human Development Index [HDI]). We briefly justify our choices below.
Environmental factors. In the group of environmental factors, temperature may likely be related to
the differences in cultural patterns of social proximity, as it was found to influence social dis-
tances during shorter interactions (IJzerman & Semin, 2010; Williams & Bargh, 2008; Zhong &
Leonardelli, 2008). Hotter climate affects emotional intensity (Sorokowski, Sorokowska, Onyi-
shi, & Szarota, 2013), which is likely related to intense and closer interpersonal contacts. Impor-
tantly, the hypothesized relationship of distance preferences and temperature might be associated
with Hall’s (1966) theory, as countries classified previously as contact cultures were also at the
same time rather warm (see Sommer, 2002).
However, increased temperatures result in increased parasite stress. This relationship offers
an alternative, competing hypothesis on temperature–distance association that would include the
indirect effect temperature has on interpersonal distance. Many diseases can spread by a simple
touch (Schweon, Edmonds, Kirk, Rowland, & Acosta, 2013), and a recent study showed that
people were able to detect some infection cues in the body odor of others—this early innate
immune response altered the pleasantness of body odor samples (Olsson et al., 2014). Reduction
of interpersonal contacts or increasing the interpersonal distance has for centuries been a part of
behavioral adaptation against epidemics (Fenichel, 2013), and in regions that have historically
suffered from high levels of infectious diseases, people are indeed less extraverted and open
(Schaller & Murray, 2008). Interpersonal distancing pattern might be thus another important fac-
tor in pathogen avoidance, as maintaining farther distance can decrease potential contamination
risk. As regions of higher temperature typically suffer from higher parasite stress than regions of
lower temperature, the increased parasite stress might indirectly lead to higher interpersonal
distances in cultures of warmer climate.
Furthermore, maintaining too close interpersonal distance may result in increased arousal
(Epstein & Karlin, 1975) and various forms of aggression and violence (see Regoeczi, 2008, for
a review). It is therefore not surprising that social crowding produces avoidant response—this
might be a way of avoiding conflicts (Worchel & Teddlie, 1976). Therefore, people
Sorokowska et al. 581
from countries of rapidly increasing number of inhabitants might be more likely to prefer farther
interpersonal distances, thus reducing the risk for potential conflicts. Withdrawal response in
such situations might be of particular importance in regions of higher temperature, as heat might
increase aggression (Anderson, 1987) and social unrest (Yeeles, 2015).
Sociopsychological factors. In the group of social-psychological factors, regions characterized by
closer interpersonal distances were rather poorer than regions characterized by farther preferred
distances. The putative relationship of this variable to interpersonal distance is further suggested
by the recent finding that the HDI was related to the level of social trust in a country (Özcan &
Bjørnskov, 2011). We tested this observation by including HDI as one of the grouping variables in
our study. Also, interpersonal distance might increase when interacting dyads differ in social status
(Aiello & Jones, 1971; Dean, Willis, & Hewitt, 1975; Little, 1968). Possibly, in countries charac-
terized with higher social inequality (i.e., lower HDI), the preferred distances might be greater.
Furthermore, the Individualism–Collectivism dimension (IC), first defined by Hofstede
(1981), is one of the most important constructs used for the classification of cultures. People from
collectivistic cultures rely to a considerable degree on close intragroup relationships, whereas
people from individualistic cultures are highly independent and have strong feelings of autonomy
within the group (Hofstede, 2001). In the present study, a 178-nation index of collectivism called
ingroup favoritism from Van de Vliert (2011) study was utilized. Contrary to Hofstede’s (2001)
index, Van de Vliert index includes data on almost all countries around the world, which enabled
us to analyze all the regions participating in our research.
Conclusion
In all, there is compelling evidence of cross-cultural variations in proxemic behaviors. Such dif-
ferences might be underpinned by cultural norms, but at the same time, these norms could be
associated with certain psychological and ecological variables. To replace previous speculations
with solid empirical evidence, in the present study, we examined interpersonal distance prefer-
ences of 8,943 people inhabiting 53 study sites (42 countries) across the globe and across different
social contexts. Given the exploratory nature of our empirical investigation, we are aware that at
this stage of research, we cannot yet explain the exact mechanisms of influence of these variables
on interpersonal distance preferences (although in the “Discussion” section, we speculate about
the nature of relationship between the distance preferences and their significant predictors).
Hypotheses
Based on the prior assumption that people from different cultures differ in interpersonal distance
preferences in different social contexts (social, personal, and intimate; Hall, 1966), we hypothe-
size significant variability in preferred interpersonal distances across countries when approach-
ing a stranger (i.e., social distance), an acquaintance (i.e., personal distance), or a close person
(i.e., intimate distance; Hypothesis 1). Second, consistent with numerous previous studies, we
hypothesize that certain characteristics of interacting individuals, like gender or age, influence
the preferences they have for interpersonal distance, with women and younger people maintain-
ing closer interpersonal distances (Hypothesis 2). Third, we assume that cultural differences in
interpersonal distancing are to some degree universally related to environmental and sociopsy-
chological factors (Hypothesis 3). Based on earlier research and our assumptions, we hypothe-
size that some environmental and psychological factors could predict variability of interpersonal
distance across countries. Lower population growth rate, higher ingroup favoritism, and higher
HDI should be associated with closer interpersonal distance preferences. Furthermore, closer
interpersonal distances should be observed in cultures of higher temperature, but it needs to be
582 Journal of Cross-Cultural Psychology 48(4)
remembered that higher temperature increments parasite stress. Thus, two competing hypotheses
might be presented regarding the temperature and distance preferences. If the effect of tempera-
ture on personal distance preferences is direct, closer interpersonal distances should be observed
in cultures of higher annual average temperature. If the effect of temperature is indirect, we
expect the opposite association.
Materials and Methods
Participants
Our study was comprised of 8,943 participants (4,013 men, 4,887 women, and 43 unidentified)
inhabiting 53 study sites in 42 countries. All participants provided informed consent prior to their
inclusion in the study. In every country, authors recruited the participants personally. We intended
to conduct our study among community members, and not students, with as diverse a sample of
inhabitants as possible for each study site. Therefore, participants were recruited through adver-
tisements, through personal contacts, in shopping malls, and so on; the recruitment methods were
very similar across all study sites. All participants were specifically recruited for this study, and the
study was conducted during the same time across all locations. The participants were ensured
anonymity of their responses. Demographic characteristics of the samples, as well as a list of all
study sites, are presented in Table 1.
Procedure
Participants completed a questionnaire consisting of demographic questions (age, sex) and three
graphic questions concerning their preferred interpersonal distance. Based on the classical Hall’s
(1966) theory, we measured three separate categories of preferred interpersonal distances—dis-
tance to (a) a stranger, (b) an acquaintance, and (c) a close person. These measures reflected the
previously defined categories of interpersonal distance: (a) social distance, (b) personal distance,
and (c) intimate distance (Hall, 1966), respectively.
To conduct cross-cultural comparisons, the questions asked needed to be easily understood by
participants all over the world (the task could not be demanding or ambiguous). Thus, we decided
to use a simple, graphic task, because it was mostly language independent (see Figure 1). Answers
were given on a distance (0-220 cm) scale anchored by two human-like figures, labeled A for the
left one and B for the right one (Figure 1). Participants were asked to imagine that he or she is
Person A. The participant was asked to rate how close a Person B could approach, so that he or
she would feel comfortable in a conversation with Person B. The participants marked the dis-
tance at which Person B should stop on the scale below the figures. Details on the applied method
can be found in Supplementary File 1. In every country, the participants completed paper-and-
pencil questionnaires individually.
In addition to participants’ report on gender and age, we analyzed country-specific environmen-
tal and sociopsychological factors: zoonotic and nonzoonotic parasite stress in a given region
(Fincher & Thornhill, 2012), population growth rate (United Nations report, 2015), ingroup favorit-
ism (Van de Vliert, 2011), average, yearly temperature in a given study site (provided by coauthors
from given study sites), and the HDI (Human Development Report, 2013; http://hdr.undp.org).
Statistical Analyses
Our hypotheses focused on the general assumption that people across different cultures univer-
sally vary in the distances they prefer when interacting with others. The presented analyses aimed
to explain the cultural similarities and variability. In the current sample, participants were nested
Sorokowska et al. 583
Table 1. Demographic Characteristics for Each of the 42 Countries Included in the Study.
Country
Sample size Age
Total Men Women M (SD) Range
Argentina 201 71 130 32.31 (11.16) 18-72
Austria 200 115 85 26.59 (9.73) 17-65
Brazil 480 300 180 36.51 (10.35) 19-70
Bulgaria 102 63 39 38.35 (8.95) 21-59
Canada 68 25 43 38.43 (10.15) 24-62
China 119 47 72 33.09 (6.41) 22-58
Colombia 100 41 59 41.10 (11.81) 21-74
Croatia 614 301 313 44.75 (11.65) 19-83
Czech Republic 167 80 87 36.48 (15.93) 18-79
Estonia 149 50 96 42.93 (12.30) 20-74
Germany 154 62 92 31.59 (13.39) 18-74
Ghana 103 52 51 40.42 (9.53) 23-65
Greece 94 42 49 38.77 (9.07) 20-71
Hong Kong 100 54 40 47.09 (9.98) 20-72
Hungary 237 76 161 37.80 (9.56) 19-62
India 299 135 164 34.10 (7.99) 20-73
Indonesia 92 25 67 41.74 (9.90) 23-66
Iran 607 261 345 38.80 (10.87) 18-88
Italy 322 127 195 48.39 (11.06) 20-86
Kazakhstan 120 60 60 37.03 (8.18) 21-61
Kenya 94 47 47 32.30 (7.26) 20-50
Malaysia 99 49 50 40.03 (8.92) 26-62
Mexico 158 77 80 38.81 (11.24) 19-77
Nigeria 603 299 297 39.00 (9.06) 18-70
Norway 100 72 28 41.29 (13.51) 22-77
Pakistan 125 55 66 36.17 (10.33) 20-69
Peru 102 49 53 31.66 (10.49) 20-58
Poland 428 161 254 40.07 (11.66) 20-87
Portugal 293 99 181 46.04 (11.17) 18-81
Romania 56 8 48 34.98 (6.68) 25-51
Russia 224 120 104 38.61 (13.86) 19-87
Saudi Arabia 198 87 111 36.16 (8.31) 22-70
Serbia 105 19 86 24.96 (7.01) 20-56
Slovakia 233 76 157 42.76 (11.74) 22-72
South Korea 100 50 50 41.76 (7.74) 27-59
Spain 199 93 106 47.10 (9.36) 24-67
Switzerland 179 110 69 48.77 (12.87) 21-75
Turkey 391 238 153 42.70 (13.59) 20-83
The United Kingdom 100 42 58 45.04 (11.57) 20-78
Uganda 93 56 35 34.89 (10.55) 17-72
Ukraine 311 66 245 29.20 (8.73) 18-61
The United States 424 153 271 41.74 (15.62) 18-83
Total 8,943 4,013 4,887 39.26 (12.25) 17-88
within countries and, therefore, we used multilevel modeling (Raudenbush & Bryk, 2002). To
test the first hypothesis about variability in interpersonal distance across cultures, we used a
584 Journal of Cross-Cultural Psychology 48(4)
stepwise approach. First, we computed three null models for social, personal, and intimate inter-
personal distance, respectively (see Supplementary File 1 for details of the models). To test sig-
nificant differences of interpersonal distance across countries, we used a graphical method
developed by Goldstein and Healy (1995), which allows comparing large groups of means simul-
taneously (see Supplementary File 1 for details of the method). Significant difference is sug-
gested when the confidence intervals of two countries do not overlap.
To test our second hypothesis of predicting the variability in interpersonal distance across
countries, we computed three models (for social distance, personal distance, and intimate dis-
tance) including all predictors discussed in the “Introduction” section in the three multilevel
models (see Supplementary File 1 for details of the models).
We used SPSS 19 for descriptive statistics. For multilevel modeling, we used the lme4 pack-
age (Bates, Maechler, Bolker, & Walker, 2014) in R Version 3.0.2 (R Core Team, 2014). To find
the best fitting model, we followed Zuur, Ieno, Walker, Saveliev, and Smith’s (2009) suggestion
to compare the inclusion of different random and fixed effects by deviance tests.
Results
Supplementary Table S1 shows means and standard deviations of each type of interpersonal dis-
tance for each sample. Overall, average interpersonal distance differed across various types of
distance (social distance, personal distance, intimate distance; Msocial = 135.1 cm; Mpersonal = 91.7
cm; Mintimate = 31.9 cm), supporting prior findings.
Variability of Interpersonal Distance Across Countries
We hypothesized that people differ in their preferred interpersonal distance across countries.
Figure 2 shows the results of the graphical mean comparison across all 42 countries for
Figure 1. Graphic of distance shown to participants.
Sorokowska et al. 585
interpersonal distance with strangers, acquaintances, and partner (i.e., social distance, personal
distance, intimate distance). Inspecting the mean comparisons in Figure 2 shows significant vari-
ability in interpersonal distance across countries for different social interactions, supporting
Hypothesis 1. In addition, as means for social distance are rank ordered, the order for personal
and intimate distances provides insights in distance preferences pattern in relation to distance
with strangers. The order for preferred personal distance indicates that the variability of this dis-
tance is in similar rank, whereas the social distance in a country is less predictive for the preferred
intimate distance. This result is additionally confirmed by the inter-correlations between certain
distance types. Pearson’s r correlations showed high correlations of social and personal distance
(r = .69) and personal and intimate distance (r = .70); the correlation between social and intimate
distance was significant as well (r = .38), but not equally high as in the other cases.
Factors Predicting Variability in Interpersonal Distance Across Countries
We assumed certain environmental and psychological predictors of interpersonal distance across
countries. Results of the three multilevel models are shown in Table 2.
We found that the variability of social distance across cultures was predicted by temperature
1 = −.82; p = .01) and gender (β8 = 3.67; p = .04). The higher the annual temperature of a coun-
try, the closer was the preferred distance to strangers. Furthermore, women on average preferred to
maintain greater distance with strangers. The result for personal distance show that age (β7 = .08;
p = .01) and gender (β8 = 2.65; p = .03) predicted the variability, suggesting that older people
preferred greater distance and, again, women preferred greater distance with acquaintances.
Finally, the results show that the intimate distance is predicted by age (β7 = .08; p = .02) and
temperature (β1 = 1.27; p < .001). This indicates that older people preferred greater
Figure 2. Mean values (cm) of social, personal, and intimate distance across all nations.
Note. Nonoverlap of the confidence intervals between any two countries indicates significant mean differences. Means
for interpersonal distance with strangers are rank ordered.
586 Journal of Cross-Cultural Psychology 48(4)
physical distance to people they considered close, whereas the effect of temperature was reversed
in comparison with interpersonal distance with strangers—the higher the annual temperature of
a country, the greater was the preferred personal distance to a close person. Figure 3 illustrates
the three types of preferred distances with regard to participants’ gender and age.
Discussion
Owing to the quality and quantity of the data collected so far on the topic of cultural differences
in proxemic behaviors, it was necessary and desirable to update the questionnaires and variables
measured to erase the bias observed in previous studies. We present here an analysis of interper-
sonal distance preferences over a large data set (8,943 participants from 42 countries). As hypoth-
esized, we observed significant variability in social, personal, and intimate distances across
countries. Variability in preferred social distance was predicted by participants’ gender and coun-
ty’s average temperature, indicating that women and people in colder countries prefer greater
distance toward strangers. Furthermore, the variability of preferred personal distance was pre-
dicted by participants’ age and gender; older people and women prefer greater distance to an
acquaintance. Finally, variability of intimate distance was explained by age and temperature,
indicating that older people and people in warmer countries prefer greater distance with people
they consider close.
Compared with previous studies, the present design had six distinctive features: (a) our study
involved a large-scale analysis among thousands of people; (b) all the participants answered the
same questionnaire illustrated with graphic representation of interpersonal distance; (c) all the
participants took part in the study in the same year (2013); (d) samples of populations were het-
erogeneous in terms of age, sex, and professions; (e) we considered five different regions of the
world, also Africa, which was not included from previous analyses; and (f) we examined several
environmental and sociopsychological variables that possibly could explain the variability in
social distance. We also present up-to-date values of three categories of preferred interpersonal
distances in different regions, which might be used as a reference data point in future studies.
This data set is especially important given that cross-cultural comparison studies are becoming
more popular in social sciences.
Table 2. Parameter Estimates for Multilevel Model.
Fixed effects
(intercept, slope)
Preferred interpersonal distance
Social distance
(stranger)
Personal distance
(acquaintance)
Intimate distance
(close person)
Estimate SE t p Estimate SE t p Estimate SE t p
Intercept 135.14 26.96 5.0 .000 91.72 21.43 4.28 .000 31.85 24.66 1.29 .205
Slopes
Age 0.03 0.04 0.81 .418 0.08 0.03 2.55 .011 0.08 0.03 2.39 .017
Gender 3.67 1.69 2.17 .037 2.65 1.19 2.23 .034 0.11 0.82 0.13 .895
Ingroup
favoritism
0.26 4.20 0.06 .952 −1.22 3.33 −0.37 .716 −0.84 3.84 −0.22 .827
HDI −34.13 32.37 −1.05 .299 −27.96 25.71 −1.09 .284 0.36 29.75 0.01 .999
Nonzoonotic 1.07 2.48 0.43 .669 −0.98 1.99 −0.45 .653 −3.26 2.25 −1.45 .156
Zoonotic −3.86 3.28 −1.18 .248 −1.69 2.61 −0.64 .527 0.44 2.99 0.15 .884
Temperature 0.82 0.33 −2.46 .015 0.08 0.28 0.29 .773 1.27 0.29 4.37 .000
Population
growth
5.18 4.15 1.25 .220 3.73 3.30 1.13 .265 2.25 3.80 0.59 .558
Note. Significant estimates are in bold (p values are two-tailed). N = 8,943. HDI = Human Development Index.
Sorokowska et al. 587
Cultural Differences in Proxemic Behaviors
Among environmental factors, our results regarding temperature are consistent with findings
showing that climatic demands interact with wealth resources in influencing a variety of cultural
tendencies (Fischer & Van de Vliert, 2011; Van de Vliert, 2013; Van de Vliert, Schwartz, Huismans,
Hofstede, & Daan, 1999). However, we observed a meaningful association between distance pref-
erences and mean temperature, without distinguishing between demanding winter cold and
demanding summer heat. Thus, our results and previous research (Van de Vliert et al., 1999) sug-
gest that the unipolar, mean temperature might be a reasonable predictor of some psychological
variables that could be used instead, or in addition to the climatic demand variable (Fischer & Van
de Vliert, 2011; Van de Vliert, 2013), depending on the hypotheses and study aims.
It is worth noticing that in our study, the direction of temperature effect differed for social
and intimate distance. In warmer countries, people preferred to maintain closer distances
toward strangers—but farther toward the intimate partners. The result regarding closer dis-
tance in hotter climates is consistent with the literature. IJzerman and Semin (2010) showed
that compared with colder conditions, warmer conditions induced greater social proximity;
even within the United States, people in warm latitudes were shown to exhibit a closer contact
behavior with more touch than their counterparts in colder climates (Andersen, 1988). IJzerman
and Semin (2010) explained their findings in the context of Lakoff and Johnson’s (1999)
embodied realism, that is, grounding the abstract idea (in this case—warmer feelings) in the
physical situation (warmer temperature). Relatedly, other studies showed that social exclusion
induces perceptions of lower temperature (Zhong & Leonardelli, 2008), and physical proxim-
ity of other people induce perceptions of higher temperature (IJzerman & Semin, 2010).
However, in the case of intimate distance, the result of our study differed from those obtained
previously. Perhaps, this outcome resulted from specificity of distancing preferences in colder
Figure 3. Mean values (cm) of social (gray), personal (light gray), and intimate distance (dark gray) for
men and women in different age groups summed for all nations.
588 Journal of Cross-Cultural Psychology 48(4)
(and not in hotter) countries. Although both heat and cold are demanding environmental condi-
tions (Fischer & Van de Vliert, 2011), it is possible that some negative effects of colder climate
can be alleviated through closer intimate distances. Another explanation could be that although
the increased temperatures might directly lead to smaller social distances, augmented parasite
prevalence in hotter climates might also indirectly affect distance preferences in close relation-
ships by increased risk of certain infections.
Overall, we found no direct effect of cultural-level parasitic stress (zoonotic and nonzoonotic
parasite stress; Fincher & Thornhill, 2012), which seems particularly interesting, given that
evolved disease-avoidance mechanisms and contemporary social cognition are indeed related
(Faulkner, Schaller, Park, & Duncan, 2004). Therefore, perhaps other health-related variables
would provide a better fit to our model, for example, prevalence of different infectious diseases.
Also, the parasitic threat could play a more important role in real dyad behavior while being
unrelated to preferences. Finally, as discussed above, it is probable that parasitic diseases would
be good predictors of interpersonal distances as long as the strong, direct impact of temperatures
was excluded. This hypothesis is consistent with previous research, showing that interactive
impacts of climatic demands and income resources alleviate any effects parasitic stress might
have on culture (Van de Vliert & Postmes, 2012).
In the group of sociopsychological factors, significant fixed effects revealed gender differ-
ences in preferred social and personal distance, with women generally preferring greater dis-
tances. However, the random effects showed in more detail that gender effect was especially
pronounced in Switzerland, Malaysia, Saudi Arabia, Hong Kong, Brazil, Austria, and India for
social distance, and Switzerland, Malaysia, China, Saudi Arabia, Brazil, Poland, and Nigeria for
personal distance. As our study is a preliminary exploration of possible, cross-cultural determi-
nants of preferred distances, it is hard to present any definite explanations of such findings.
Generally, enforcing closer proximinity during dyad interactions conveys higher dominance
(Burgoon, 1991). Dominance is typically related to male psychological characteristics, and
behaviors consistent with such stereotype might be especially strong in some cultures. In addi-
tion, women in some cultures can be more sensitive to social situations and avoid dominant
“invasions” of personal space of people they are not highly familiar with. This explanation would
be consistent with the notion that the interpersonal distance people choose depends also on the
degree of understanding of a social situation, that is, familiarity with social norms (Bogardus,
1954). Also, our findings might be partially due to the methodology used in our study—we did
not specify the sex of an approaching individual, and it is possible that interaction distances
might differ depending on the assumed sex of interlocutor.
Still, it needs to be remembered that higher distances preferred by women are inconsistent
with most previous studies (Aiello, 1987; Horenstein & Downey, 2003; Ozdemir, 2008; Patterson
& Edinger, 1987; Smith, 1981; Vranic, 2003), suggesting that women rather prefer closer inter-
personal distances than men (but see Heshka & Nelson, 1972). There are some possible reasons
as to why these differences emerged. First, many of the previous studies were conducted many
years ago, and maybe the social norms related to dyadic interactions in these times were different
than they are now. Furthermore, the differences may reflect the marked increase in globalization
and increased internationalization over the last several decades. Finally, it is also unclear whether
most previous findings refer to distances between strangers, acquaintances, or close persons
(e.g., Gérin-Lajoie et al., 2006; Ozdemir, 2008; Smith, 1981; Webb & Weber, 2003). Perhaps the
observed discrepancies result from a simple fact that in our study, the specified context influ-
enced the declarations of participating men and women.
We also observed that age was a significant predictor of personal and intimate distance. As
discussed in the introduction, our findings are consistent with previously observed outcomes
(Aiello, 1987; Burgess, 1983; Gérin-Lajoie et al., 2006; Rapp & Gutzmann, 2000; Webb &
Weber, 2003). Overall, younger people are more likely to engage in physical contact with others
Sorokowska et al. 589
(Rands & Levinger, 1979). Possibly, this result could be explained with changes in social norms
across generations.
Limitations and Future Directions
Although the distinction proposed in our study provides a novel alternative for previous, geo-
graphic division on contact versus noncontact cultures, and the presented data might stimulate
new research on proxemic behaviors, there exist some limitations of our findings.
First, perhaps, other variables, not analyzed in the current study, could also explain the inter-
personal distance preferences. To create better and more exact models, future studies should
include more predicting variables of various categories, including different individual-level vari-
ables, for example, height of interacting individuals, or their disease susceptibility.
Second, we concentrated on preferences for interpersonal distance and not on real choices.
These two might be different, as shown, for example, by studies regarding mate preferences and
mate choices (Sorokowski, Sabiniewicz, & Sorokowska, 2015; Todd, Penke, Fasolo, & Lenton,
2007). However, some of our findings are consistent with results of experimental studies regard-
ing real dyadic interactions (Borisova & Butovskaya, 2004). Nevertheless, further studies should
experimentally test the findings of our research.
Third, in our study, we measured distance preferences across three predefined categories of
interpersonal distance (stranger, acquaintance, and a close person). It needs to be mentioned that
descriptors of these categories (“a close relationship”) could evoke some spatial associations
(“close distance”). Also, simultaneous assessment of three types of distance could result in
responses being slightly interdependent. Researchers in future works could control this factor by
separating answer sheets for distance categories by some unrelated tasks, or by using a between-
subject design, with each participant in each country assessing his or her preferences for one type
of distance only.
Finally and ideally, in future studies, it could be tested how reliably the sample like ours rep-
resents the interpersonal distancing phenomena on a global level. Such an approach would allow
researchers to be more precise in estimating generalizability of the findings. Still, in the case of
our research, the participating sample represents many nations and the observed findings should
be a close proxy of global preferences for interpersonal distances.
Acknowledgments
The authors thank Chinwe Frances Inogbo, Regina Cejudo de la Sierra, Maria Fernanda Morales Perez,
Barbara Baranyai, Adrienn Bálint, Gabriella Kuch, Tímea Kiss, Emese Kozma, Margaréta Nagy, Zsófia
Magyar, and Éva Virág for their help with data collection; they also thank Professors Corey L. Fincher and
Randy Thornhill for kindly permitting them to use their data on parasite stress.
Declaration of Conflicting Interests
The author(s) declared no potential conflicts of interest with respect to the research, authorship, and/or
publication of this article.
Funding
The author(s) disclosed receipt of the following financial support for the research, authorship, and/or publi-
cation of this article: Czech Science Foundation GAČR P407/16/03899S grant to Jitka Fialová, Polish
Ministry of Science and Higher Education: Iuventus Plus grant #IP2014 043773 and Scholarship to
Agnieszka Sorokowska for years 2013-2016, Scholarships to Piotr Sorokowski for years 2012-2017, Polish
National Science Centre ETIUDA scholarship #2013/08/T/HS6/00408 to Agnieszka Sorokowska, Deanship
of Scientific Research at King Saud University Support to Ahmad M. Alghraibeh, and Grant Agency of
Czech Republic GAUK 918214 grant to Jitka Fialová.
590 Journal of Cross-Cultural Psychology 48(4)
Supplemental Material
The supplementary materials can be accessed at http://journals.sagepub.com/doi/suppl/10.1177/
0022022117698039.
References
Aiello, J. R. (1987). Human spatial behavior. In D. Stokols & I. Altman (Eds.), Handbook of environmental
psychology (pp. 389-504). New York, NY: Wiley.
Aiello, J. R., & Jones, S. E. (1971). Field study of the proxemic behavior of young school children in three
subcultural groups. Journal of Personality and Social Psychology, 19, 351-356.
Andersen, P. (1988). Explaining intercultural differences in nonverbal communication. In L. A. Samovar
& R. E. Porter (Eds.), Intercultural communication: A reader (5th ed., pp. 272-281). Belmont, CA:
Wadsworth.
Anderson, C. A. (1987). Temperature and aggression: Effects on quarterly, yearly, and city rates of violent
and nonviolent crime. Journal of Personality and Social Psychology, 52, 1161-1173.
Baldassare, M., & Feller, S. (1975). Cultural variations in personal space. Ethos, 3, 481-503.
Bates, D., Maechler, M., Bolker, B., & Walker, S. (2014). Package lme4: Linear mixed-effects models
using Eigen and S4. Journal od Statistical Software, 67, 1-48.
Beaulieu, C. (2004). Intercultural study of personal space: A case study. Journal of Applied Social
Psychology, 34, 794-805.
Bogardus, E. (1954). Sociology. New York, NY: Macmillan.
Borisova, L. V., & Butovskaya, M. L. (2004). Spatial behavior in modern Russian urban culture: Age and
gender factors. In M. L. Butovskaya (Ed.), Human ethology: Modern quantitative methods (pp. 13-20).
Moscow, Russia: Russian State University for Humanities.
Burgess, J. W. (1983). Interpersonal spacing behavior between surrounding nearest neighbors reflects both
familiarity and environmental density. Ethology and Sociobiology, 4, 11-17.
Burgoon, J. K. (1991). Relational message interpretations of touch, conversational distance, and posture.
Journal of Nonverbal Behavior, 15, 233-259.
Dean, L. M., Willis, F. N., & Hewitt, J. (1975). Initial interaction distance among individuals equal and
unequal in military rank. Journal of Personality and Social Psychology, 32, 294-299.
Epstein, Y. M., & Karlin, R. A. (1975). Effects of acute experimental crowding. Journal of Applied Social
Psychology, 5, 34-53.
Evans, G. W., & Howard, R. B. (1973). Personal space. Psychological Bulletin, 80, 334-344.
Evans, G. W., Lepore, S. J., & Allen, K. M. (2000). Cross-cultural differences in tolerance for crowding:
Fact or fiction? Journal of Personality and Social Psychology, 79, 204-210.
Faulkner, J., Schaller, M., Park, J. H., & Duncan, L. A. (2004). Evolved disease-avoidance mechanisms and
contemporary xenophobic attitudes. Group Processes & Intergroup Relations, 7, 333-353.
Felipe, N. J., & Sommer, R. (1966). Invasions of personal space. Social Problems, 14, 206-214.
Fenichel, E. P. (2013). Economic considerations for social distancing and behavioral based policies during
an epidemic. Journal of Health Economics, 32, 440-451.
Fincher, C. L., & Thornhill, R. (2012). Parasite-stress promotes in-group assortative sociality: The cases of
strong family ties and heightened religiosity. Behavioral & Brain Sciences, 35, 61-79.
Fischer, R., & Van de Vliert, E. (2011). Does climate undermine subjective well-being? A 58-nation study.
Personality and Social Psychology Bulletin, 37, 1031-1041.
Ford, J. G., & Graves, J. R. (1977). Differences between Mexican-American and White children in interper-
sonal distance and social touching. Perceptual and Motor Skills, 45, 779-785.
Forston, R. F., & Larson, C. U. (1968). The dynamics of space: An experimental study in proxemic behav-
ior among Latin Americans and North Americans. Journal of Communication, 18, 109-116.
Gérin-Lajoie, M., Richards, C. L., & McFadyen, B. J. (2006). The circumvention of obstacles during walk-
ing in different environmental contexts: A comparison between older and younger adults. Gait &
Posture, 24, 364-369.
Goldstein, H., & Healy, M. J. (1995). The graphical presentation of a collection of means. Journal of the
Royal Statistical Society,. Series A (Statistics in Society), 158, 175-177.
Hall, E. T. (1966). The hidden dimension. New York, NY: Doubleday.
Sorokowska et al. 591
Hayduk, L. A. (1983). Personal space: Where we now stand. Psychological Bulletin, 94, 293-335.
Heshka, S., & Nelson, Y. (1972). Interpersonal speaking distance as a function of age, sex, and relationship.
Sociometry, 35, 491-498.
Hofstede, G. (1981). Culture and organizations. International Studies of Management and Organizations,
10, 15-41.
Hofstede, G. (2001). Culture’s consequences: Comparing values, behaviors, institutions and organizations
across nations. Thousands Oaks, CA: Sage.
Horenstein, V. D. P., & Downey, J. L. (2003). A cross-cultural investigation of self-disclosure. North
American Journal of Psychology, 5, 373-386.
Human Development Report. (2013). Retrieved from http://hdr.undp.org/sites/default/files/reports/14/
hdr2013_en_complete.pdf
IJzerman, H., & Semin, G. R. (2010). Temperature perceptions as a ground for social proximity. Journal of
Experimental Social Psychology, 46, 867-873.
Lakoff, G., & Johnson, M. (1999). Philosophy in the flesh: The embodied mind and its challenge to western
thought. New York, NY: Basic Books.
Little, K. B. (1968). Cultural variations in social schemata. Journal of Personality and Social Psychology,
10, 1-7.
Mazur, A. (1977). Interpersonal spacing on public benches in “contact” vs. “noncontact” cultures. The
Journal of Social Psychology, 101, 53-58.
Madanipour, A. (2003). Public and private spaces of the city. London, England: Routledge.
Olsson, M. J., Lundström, J. N., Kimball, B. A., Gordon, A. R., Karshikoff, B., Hosseini, N., & Lekander,
M. (2014). The scent of disease human body odor contains an early chemosensory cue of sickness.
Psychological Science, 25, 817-823.
Özcan, B., & Bjørnskov, C. (2011). Social trust and human development. The Journal of Socio-Economics,
40, 753-762.
Ozdemir, A. (2008). Shopping malls: Measuring interpersonal distance under changing conditions and
across cultures. Field Methods, 20, 226-248.
Patterson, M. L., & Edinger, J. A. (1987). A functional analysis of space in social interaction. In A. W.
Siegman & S. Feldstein (Eds.), Nonverbal behavior and communication (pp. 523-562). Mahwah, NJ:
Lawrence Erlbaum Associates.
Rands, M., & Levinger, G. (1979). Implicit theories of relationship: An intergenerational study. Journal of
Personality and Social Psychology, 37, 645-661.
Rapp, M. A., & Gutzmann, H. (2000). Invasions of personal space in demented and nondemented elderly
persons. International Psychogeriatrics, 12, 345-352.
Raudenbush, S. W., & Bryk, A. S. (2002). Hierarchical linear models: Applications and data analysis
methods. Thousand Oaks, CA: Sage.
R Core Team. (2014). R: A language and environment for statistical computing. Vienna, Austria: R
Foundation for Statistical Computing. Available from http://www.R-project.org/
Regoeczi, W. C. (2008). Crowding in context: An examination of the differential responses of men and
women to high-density living environments. Journal of Health and Social Behavior, 49, 254-268.
Remland, M. S., Jones, T. S., & Brinkman, H. (1995). Interpersonal distance, body orientation, and touch:
Effects of culture, gender, and age. The Journal of Social Psychology, 135, 281-297.
Sawada, Y. (2003). Blood pressure and heart rate responses to an intrusion on personal space. Japanese
Psychological Research, 45, 115-121.
Schaller, M., & Murray, D. R. (2008). Pathogens, personality, and culture: Disease prevalence pre-
dicts worldwide variability in sociosexuality, extraversion, and openness to experience. Journal of
Personality and Social Psychology, 95, 212-221.
Schweon, S. J., Edmonds, S. L., Kirk, J., Rowland, D. Y., & Acosta, C. (2013). Effectiveness of a compre-
hensive hand hygiene program for reduction of infection rates in a long-term care facility. American
Journal of Infection Control, 41, 39-44.
Shuter, P. (1976). Proxemics and tactility in Latin America. Journal of Communication, 26, 46-52.
Smith, H. W. (1981). Territorial spacing on a beach revisited: A cross-national exploration. Social
Psychology Quarterly, 44, 132-137.
Sommer, R. (1969). Personal space: The behavioral basis of design. Englewood Cliffs, NJ: Prentice Hall.
592 Journal of Cross-Cultural Psychology 48(4)
Sommer, R. (2002). Personal space in a digital age. In R. B. Bechtel & A. Churchman (Eds.), Handbook of
environmental psychology (pp. 647-660). New York, NY: John Wiley.
Sorokowski, P., Sabiniewicz, A., & Sorokowska, A. (2015). The impact of dominance on partner’s height
preferences and height-related mate choices. Personality and Individual Differences, 74, 220-224.
Sorokowski, P., Sorokowska, A., Onyishi, I. E., & Szarota, P. (2013). Montesquieu hypothesis and football:
Players from hot countries are more expressive after scoring a goal. Polish Psychological Bulletin, 44,
421-430.
Sussman, N. M., & Rosenfeld, H. M. (1982). Influence of culture, language, and sex on conversational
distance. Journal of Personality and Social Psychology, 42, 66-74.
Todd, P. M., Penke, L., Fasolo, B., & Lenton, A. P. (2007). Different cognitive processes underlie human
mate choices and mate preferences. Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences, 104, 15011-
15016.
Triandis, H., & Triandis, L. (1967). Some studies of social distance. In M. Fishbein (Ed.), Readings in atti-
tude theory and measurement (pp. 199-206). New York, NY: John Wiley.
United Nations Report. (2015). Population division. Retrieved from http://esa.un.org/unpd/wpp/Excel-
Data/population.htm
Van de Vliert, E. (2011). Climato-economic origins of variation in ingroup favoritism. Journal of Cross-
Cultural Psychology, 42, 494-515.
Van de Vliert, E. (2013). Climato-economic habitats support patterns of human needs, stresses, and free-
doms. Behavioral & Brain Sciences, 36, 465-480.
Van de Vliert, E., & Postmes, T. (2012). Climato-economic livability predicts societal collectivism and
political autocracy better than parasitic stress does. Behavioral & Brain Sciences, 35, 94-95.
Van de Vliert, E., Schwartz, S. H., Huismans, S. E., Hofstede, G., & Daan, S. (1999). Temperature, cul-
tural masculinity, and domestic political violence. A cross-national study. Journal of Cross-Cultural
Psychology, 30, 291-314.
Vranic, A. (2003). Personal space in physically abused children. Environment & Behavior, 35, 550-565.
Watson, O. M. (1970). Proxemic behavior: A cross-cultural study. The Hague, The Netherlands: Mouton.
Watson, O. M., & Graves, T. D. (1966). Quantitative research in proxemic behavior. American
Anthropologist, 68, 971-985.
Webb, J. D., & Weber, M. J. (2003). Influence of sensory abilities on the interpersonal distance of the
elderly. Environment & Behavior, 35, 695-711.
Williams, L. E., & Bargh, J. A. (2008). Experiencing physical warmth promotes interpersonal warmth.
Science, 322, 606-607.
Worchel, S., & Teddlie, C. (1976). The experience of crowding: A two-factor theory. Journal of Personality
and Social Psychology, 34, 30-40.
Yeeles, A. (2015). Weathering unrest: The ecology of urban social disturbances in Africa and Asia. Journal
of Peace Research, 52, 158-170.
Zhong, C. B., & Leonardelli, G. J. (2008). Cold and lonely does social exclusion literally feel cold?
Psychological Science, 19, 838-842.
Zuur, A. F., Ieno, E. N., Walker, N., Saveliev, A. A., & Smith, G. M. (2009). Mixed effects models and
extensions in ecology with R. New York, NY: Springer.
  • ... European countries vary greatly in terms of population density, and there are also differences in the number of social contacts people have and interact with on a daily basis. In addition, there are major cultural differences in the physical distance people keep when interacting with their close friends and other people [8]. For instance, Southern European countries have been traditionally considered as contact cultures in comparison to noncontact cultures, such as North Europe and Asia [8][9][10]. ...
    Article
    Full-text available
    Background: The outbreak of the coronavirus disease (COVID-19) has dramatically changed societies in 2020. Since the end of February, Europe has been hit particularly hard by COVID-19, but there are major country differences in both the spread of the virus and measures taken to stop the virus. Social psychological factors such as institutional trust could be important in understanding the development of the epidemic. Objective: The aim of this study was to examine country variations of COVID-19 mortality in Europe by analyzing social risk factors explaining the spread of the disease, restrictions and control measures, and institutional trust. Methods: The present study was based on a background analysis of European Social Survey data on 25 European countries (N=47,802). Multilevel mixed effects linear regression models focused on 84 days of the COVID-19 epidemic (January 22 to April 14, 2020) and modelled the daily COVID-19 mortality. Analysis focused on the impact of social relations, restrictions, and institutional trust within each country. Results: The spread of the COVID-19 epidemic has been fast everywhere, but the findings revealed significant differences between countries in COVID-19 mortality. Perceived sociability predicted higher COVID-19 mortality. Major differences between the 25 countries were found in reaction times to the crisis. Late reaction to the crisis predicted higher mortality figures. Institutional trust was associated with lower COVID-19 mortality. Conclusions: The analyses demonstrated the importance of societal and social psychological factors in the spread of the COVID-19 epidemic. By considering multiple perspectives, this study showed that country differences in Europe are major, and this will have an impact on how countries will cope with the ongoing crisis in the following months. The results indicated the importance of timely restrictions and cooperation with people.
  • ... To control for potential effects of nationality and culture [29,30] we verified that all subjects had a German cultural background as indicated by their German citizenship. We chose to sample andro-and gynophilic male subjects for two reasons: First, reactions towards visual sexual stimuli are more attenuated in male as compared to female subjects [31], thus males should produce larger effects. ...
    Article
    Full-text available
    How does sexual attraction alter social interaction behavior? We examined the influence of sexual orientation on locomotor approach-avoidance behavior and interpersonal distance. We immersed androphilic and gynophilic male subjects into a virtual environment and presented various male and female virtual persons. In the first experiment, subjects took a step forward (approach) or backward (avoidance) in response to the sex of the virtual person. We measured reaction time, peak velocity, and step size, and obtained ratings of sexual attractiveness in every trial. In the second experiment, subjects had to approach the virtual person as if they were to engage in a social interaction. Here, we analyzed interpersonal distance and peak velocity of the approaches. Our results suggest that sexual attraction facilitates the approach response and reduces the preferred interpersonal distance. We discuss our findings in terms of proxemics, current findings in sex research, and the applicability of our novel task in other fields of psychological research.
  • ... European countries vary greatly in terms of population density, and there are also differences in the number of social contacts people have and interact with on a daily basis. In addition, there are major cultural differences in the physical distance people keep when interacting with their close friends and other people [8]. For instance, Southern European countries have been traditionally considered as contact cultures in comparison to noncontact cultures, such as North Europe and Asia [8][9][10]. ...
    Article
    Background: The outbreak of the coronavirus disease (COVID-19) has dramatically changed societies in 2020. Since the end of February, Europe has been hit particularly hard by COVID-19, but there are major country differences in both the spread of the virus and measures taken to stop the virus. Social psychological factors such as institutional trust could be important in understanding the development of the epidemic. Objective: The aim of this study was to examine country variations of COVID-19 mortality in Europe by analyzing social risk factors explaining the spread of the disease, restrictions and control measures, and institutional trust. Methods: The present study was based on a background analysis of European Social Survey data on 25 European countries (N=47,802). Multilevel mixed effects linear regression models focused on 84 days of the COVID-19 epidemic (January 22 to April 14, 2020) and modelled the daily COVID-19 mortality. Analysis focused on the impact of social relations, restrictions, and institutional trust within each country. Results: The spread of the COVID-19 epidemic has been fast everywhere, but the findings revealed significant differences between countries in COVID-19 mortality. Perceived sociability predicted higher COVID-19 mortality. Major differences between the 25 countries were found in reaction times to the crisis. Late reaction to the crisis predicted later mortality figures. Institutional trust was associated with lower COVID-19 mortality. Conclusions: The analyses demonstrated the importance of societal and social psychological factors in the spread of the COVID-19 epidemic. By considering multiple perspectives, this study showed that country differences in Europe are major, and this will have an impact on how countries will cope with the ongoing crisis in the following months. The results indicated the importance of timely restrictions and cooperation with people.
  • ... European countries vary greatly in terms of population density, and there are also differences in the number of social contacts people have and interact with on a daily basis. In addition, there are major cultural differences in the physical distance people keep when interacting with their close friends and other people [8]. For instance, Southern European countries have been traditionally considered as contact cultures in comparison to noncontact cultures, such as North Europe and Asia [8][9][10]. ...
  • ... For instance, cultural effects cannot not be discarded. The only multi-centric international study yet published, to the best of our knowledge, conducted phone call interviews on typically developed adults to establish IPD preferences to strangers, acquaintances and close people (Sorokowska et al. 2017). Even with this limitative approach (phone interview), inter-country variability was clearly identifiable and related to environmental factors like the countries' mean annual temperature. ...
    Article
    Full-text available
    Interpersonal distance (IPD) is a simple social regulation metric which is altered in autism. We performed a stop-distance paradigm to evaluate IPD regulation in autism spectrum disorder (ASD) and control groups in a real versus a virtual environment mimicking in detail the real one. We found a bimodal pattern of IPDs only in ASD. Both groups showed high IPD correlations between real and virtual environments, but the significantly larger slope in the control group suggests rescaling, which was absent in ASD. We argue that loss of nuances like non-verbal communication, such as perception of subtle body gestures in the virtual environment, lead to changed regulation of IPD in controls, whilst ASD participants show similar deficits in perceiving such subtle cues in both environments.
  • ... This seems especially important, as while physical distancing from others (e.g. Sorokowska et al., 2017) is highly recommended during epidemic and can slow down the speed of the virus expansion significantly (Wilder-Smith & Freedman, 2020), the less favorable attitudes about foreign groups that social distance usually go along ...
    Preprint
    Full-text available
    Pathogen threat can translate into willingness to distance oneself from others also on a psychological level. Building on this notion, we predicted that the ongoing pandemic of Coronavirus can affect attitudes toward foreign nationalities. We explored the inter-group consequences of the current epidemiological situation in two studies involving a total of 652 participants. In correlational Study 1, we showed a positive relationship between media exposure in the UK and in Poland and prejudice to four foreign nationalities. The Study 2 showed that negative affect toward Italians (i.e., a nation struggling with the most severe COVID-19 outbreak at the time of the study) was indirectly predicted by exposure to news about Coronavirus through the increase in anxiety. Overall, our studies revealed that prejudice is sensitive to current epidemiological situation and our findings suggest that the outbreak of COVID-19 may translate into severe social consequences and increased psychological distancing to nations most affected by the pandemic.
  • ... Closer interpersonal distance means higher virus inhalation which increases infection risk via close contact route [42]. The average personal distances for acquaintances and intimately close persons in China are 83.6 and 57.6 cm, respectively [49]. However, there is no clear definition of interpersonal distance. ...
    Article
    Full-text available
    Knowledge of human behaviors is important for improving indoor-environment design, building-energy efficiency, and productivity, and for studies of infection spread. However, such data are lacking. In this study, we designed a device for detecting and recording, second by second, the 3D indoor positioning and head and body motions of each graduate student in an office. From more than 400 person hours of data. Students spent 92.2%, 4.1%, 2.9%, and 0.8% of their time in their own office cubicles, other office cubicles, aisles, and areas near public facilities, respectively. They spent 9.7% of time in close contact, and each student averagely had 4.0 close contacts/h. Students spent long time on close contact in the office which may lead to high infection risk. The average interpersonal distance during close contact was 0.81 m. When sitting, students preferred small relative face orientation angle. Pairs of standing students preferred a face-to-face orientation during close contact which means this pattern had a lower infection risk via close contact. Probability of close contact decreased exponentially with the increasing distance between two students’ cubicles. Data on human behaviour during close contact is helpful for infection risk analysis and infection control and prevention.
  • Article
    Full-text available
    Close contact was first identified as the primary route of transmission for most respiratory infections in the early 20th century. In this review, we synthesise the existing understanding of the mechanisms of close contact transmission. We focus on two issues: the mechanism of transmission in close contact, namely the transmission of the expired particles between two people, and the physical parameters of close contact that affect the exposure of particles from one individual to another, or how the nature of close contact plays a role in transmission. We propose the existence of three sub‐routes of transmission: short‐range airborne, large droplets, and immediate body‐surface contact. We also distinguish a “body contact”, which is defined with an interpersonal distance of zero, from a close contact. We demonstrate herein that the short‐range airborne sub‐route may be most common. The timescales over which data should be collected to assess the transmission risk during close contact events are much shorter than those required for the distant airborne or fomite routes. The current paucity of high‐resolution data over short distances and timescales makes it very difficult to assess the risk of infection in these circumstances.
  • Conference Paper
    The standardization/adaptation debate in cross-cultural advertising is a topic on which little consensus prevails and which remains heavily discussed. Using evolutionary psychology, we develop a typology of advertising cues and explain their cross-cultural relevance and transportability. We highlight three distinct categories – human universals (evolved similarities), local adaptations (evolved differences), and local socialization (differences not due to evolution). The paper contributes to advertising theory by providing a meta-framework for the study of cross-cultural similarities and differences in the processing of advertising cues. It further assists advertising practice by delivering a framework aiding in cross-cultural advertising copy decisions.