Proxemics is the study of human use of space and the effects that population density has on behaviour, communication, and social interaction. Hall, the cultural anthropologist who coined the term in 1963, defined proxemics as “the organization of distance learning of disabled children interrelated observations and theories of humans use of space as a specialized elaboration of culture”. The distance surrounding a person forms a space.
The space within intimate distance and personal distance is called personal space. The space within social distance and out of personal distance is called social space. And the space within public distance is called public space. Personal space is the region surrounding a person which they regard as psychologically theirs. Most people value their personal space and feel discomfort, anger, or anxiety when their personal space is encroached. Permitting a person to enter personal space and entering somebody else’s personal space are indicators of perception of those people’s relationship. Entering somebody’s personal space is normally an indication of familiarity and sometimes intimacy.
However, in modern society, especially in crowded urban communities, it can be difficult to maintain personal space, for example when in a crowded train, elevator or street. The amygdala is suspected of processing people’s strong reactions to personal space violations since these are absent in those in which it is damaged and it is activated when people are physically close. Research links the amygdala with emotional reactions to proximity to other people. A person’s personal space is carried with them everywhere they go. It is the most inviolate form of territory. Body spacing and posture, according to Hall, are unintentional reactions to sensory fluctuations or shifts, such as subtle changes in the sound and pitch of a person’s voice. The distances mentioned above are horizontal distance.
There is also vertical distance that communicates something between people. In this case, however, vertical distance is often understood to convey the degree of dominance or sub-ordinance in a relationship. Looking up at or down on another person can be taken literally in many cases, with the higher person asserting greater status. Teachers, and especially those who work with small children, should realize that students will interact more comfortably with a teacher when they are in same vertical plane. Used in this way, an understanding of vertical distance can become a tool for improved teacher-student communication. On the other hand, a disciplinarian might put this information to use in order to gain psychological advantage over an unruly student.
Hall used biometric concepts to categorize, explain, and explore the ways people connect in space. These variations in positioning are impacted by a variety of nonverbal communicative factors, listed below. Kinesthetic factors: This category deals with how closely the participants are to touching, from being completely outside of body-contact distance to being in physical contact, which parts of the body are in contact, and body part positioning. Haptic code: This behavioral category concerns how participants are touching one another, such as caressing, holding, feeling, prolonged holding, spot touching, pressing against, accidental brushing, or not touching at all. Visual code: This category denotes the amount of eye contact between participants. Four sub-categories are defined, ranging from eye-to-eye contact to no eye contact at all. Thermal code: This category denotes the amount of body heat that each participant perceives from another.