Come closer--stay back: Interpersonal space preferences

Date of Award




Degree Name

Doctor of Philosophy (Ph.D.)



First Committee Member

Leonard Jacobson - Committee Chair


This study evaluated the usefulness of two new test instruments, an Interpersonal Closeness Inventory, to measure people's preferences for interpersonal spacings from others and a Reaction Scale, to measure their responses to a slide presentation of simulated approaches by eight different stimulus persons. It also examined the extent to which an individual's comfort with an approaching stranger could be predicted by or correlate in a statistically significant way with his or her age and gender, expressed needs or general preferences for physical and psychological space as measured by the Aiken-Jacobson Interpersonal Closeness Inventory, tendency toward self-deception as measured by the Jacobson-Kellogg Revised Self-Description Inventory, perceived locus-of-control as measured by the Rotter Internal-External Locus-of-Control Inventory, tendency to project personal qualities onto a stranger which could not be known at the time of the initial encounter, and the age, gender and grooming of the stranger. There were 300 subjects, consisting of 75 male and 75 female undergraduates and 75 men and 75 women over the age of 50. The four groups responded in significantly different ways on the personality measures and to the stimulus persons. They generally permitted closer approaches by the older, female, and neatly-groomed than by the younger, male and slovenly stimulus persons; the younger women's reactions were generally the most negative and those of the older women the most positive. There was a significant correlation between the younger men's birth order, household size, and locus-of-control scores with their preferences for interpersonal space. There was a significant negative correlation between the older women's scores on the Self-Description Inventory and their interpersonal space preferences. It was concluded that the Interpersonal Closeness Inventory might better predict reactions to stimulus persons by psychologically impaired subjects than normal ones. With some modification, the Reaction Scale may be useful as a research tool in interpersonal space studies to measure individual responses to specific stimulus persons.


Psychology, Social; Psychology, Psychometrics

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