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How Stick People Start Dating

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Check out this YouTube video that shows a dating scenario and how non-verbal cues are used in everyday life.

Works Cited:

Sc104jfGROUPhug. "How Stick People Started Dating." You Tube. Web. 8 Dec. 2011.

Differences in Proxemics for Age Groups

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Proxemics as you know is based quite often on the attachment to those surrounding an individual. We learn this tactic at a young age; to stay close to people we know and trust. As a result, we are begged the question at what point do our proxemics change? How does it change? And finally, what can we learn from this knowledge? Understanding this concept can help increase familiarity between families, and possible improve relationships as well.

Considering we are discussing age differences, it seems wise to begin with proxemics of children. As one would have guessed, Children are used to closer and more intimate proxemics. Children have a strong need to be around those who they feel can protect them, and who provide for them. Independence is a big issue in the study of all proxemics, and children are the perfect example of how much of a non factor proxemics are with no sense of independence. However, as children grow older their need to be close to parents decreases and their want to be near playmates or friends increases. (Burgess, McMurphy 114). This is a common phenomena, but one that is often overlooked in the face of relational issues with family members. What causes children to change so dramatically? One day a child can’t sleep without the reassurance that their parents are in the next room, and the next they are coming home later and later, talking less and less, and soon completely ignoring their parents for the most part. Studies indicate that this occurs for several reasons. Those reasons include: sexuality, social involvement, and curiosity of the world around them. (Terneus, Malone 13). Now that we have a better understanding of the transition from children to adolescent, we can examine teenage proxemics head on.

This is where Proxemics probably become the most “socially distanced”. That is to say, that when a certain age is reached teens will become the most resistant to parenting, and also make the most attempts to remove themselves from intimate or even personal social distances. As Terneus and Malone say, the need to find a partner or a social “anchor” to latch upon is the most critical mission to humans in this age group. Not necessarily to forget your previous attachments, but the more independent someone gets the more they desire to make a name and life for themselves. This is the fuel that changes proxemics with age. Independence. Anything from shaving to driving are all examples of how a teenager can make themselves feel less like a needy kid, and more like a self functioning adult. By having a clearer understanding of the second stage in proxemic development, we can traverse towards the final stage that is adulthood.

Adulthood is the point at which proxemics are controlled more so than just avoided. Being more aware of our surroundings, we understand social codes enough to handle uncomfortable situations by managing our placement and relation to various individuals. For instance “verbal charm” is a tactic often use to control our surroundings. (Roper 16) Inflection monitoring, as well as choice of words can all be used to make aware our situation to other individuals. For example, a person in a crowded room might convince someone to try the snack table, only to give themselves more room to stand in the same place. Many other codes dealing with relational desires, gender, and methodology can apply to adults as well. (Terneus, Malone 13). The premise behind this analysis is show that adults confront reality and proxemics with special tactics, and younger individuals rely on changing social distances to avoid conflict.

So in conclusion, we have learned three traits in human development dealing with proxemics. First, young children are perhaps the most “intimate” of all age groups; in addition, they cling to loved ones more so than any other group. Secondly, adolescents are the opposite of younger groups because they focus on moving away from conflict by adjusting their distances themselves. And finally as we age into adulthood, we develop social skills to help us understand and manage our proximity. As we grow older we desire independence and social control which greatly affect our proxemics. Clearly this is the key to developing social skills early on.

Works Cited

–         Burgess, J. W., and D. McMurphy. “The Development of Proxemic Spacing Behavior: Children’s Distances to Surrounding Playmates and Adults Change between 6 Months and 5 Years of Age.” US National Library of Medicine, Nov. 1982. Web. 05 Dec. 2011. <;.


–         Terneus, Sandra K., and Yvonne Malone. “Proxemics and Kinesics of Adolescents in Dual-Gender Groups.” Educational Resources and Information Center, 2004. Web. 5 Dec. 2011.



–         Roper, Jonathan. “Towards a Poetics, Rhetorics and Proxemics of Verbal Charms.” Directory of Open Access Journals, 2003. Web. 4 Dec. 2011. <;.

Proxemics: Relationships

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It is common knowledge to any communications students that intimate space is the space in the 0-18 inches range.  For the most part, this intimate space is most often reserved for romantic partners.  In Manusov and Patterson’s text, they point out the fact that people are more likely to sit closer to a romantic partner than their own friends (Manusov and Patterson, 265).  One term in particular that is crutial in understanding the proxemics in relationships is the term interpersonal distance.  Manusov and Patterson define this term as the physical space between two people  (Manusov and Patterson, 265). The closeness or distance between two people can directly reflect the relationship between the two people.  If two people are very close then their interpersonal distance will be an indicator of this because they will close the space between themselves.  But, if two people are very distant then it can almost always be assumed that they are not close in their relationship.  Proxemics are very important in a relationship because research has shown that being close to one another can have a positive effect on the relationship.  In romantic relationships, one can also observe differences between couples that have recently come together versus couples that have been dating for a substantially longer amount of time.  In the beginning of a relationship, the couple tends to be touchier than a couple that has been together a longer amount of time.  When relationships begin to break down and a couple is headed for a break up, the proxemics of the relationship changes dramatically.  The couple can appear disengaged and are hardly ever touching one another.  While proxemics may not be a hot topic among relationship professionals, they can be a major indicator of closeness and can be a large help when trying to decipher relationship levels between two people.


Works Cited:

Manusov, Valerie Lynn, and Miles L. Patterson. The SAGE Handbook Of Nonverbal Communication. Sage Publications, Inc, 2006.

Proxemics: Territoriality

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We’ve all experienced violations to our personal space, whether it be that awkward situation when someone is standing a little too close to you, someone yelling across the library, or even someone taking our favorite seat in class. Consequently, we have all felt that sense of discomfort that results from our territorial encroachments. In this post I will be discussing proxemics in the sense of territoriality, territorial markers, and the reactions to the encroachments.

Territoriality is a specific form of proxemics that refers to how people use space to communicate ownership/occupancy of areas and possessions. The territoriality of an individual can be broken down into three basic geographic areas: primary, secondary, and public territory. Primary territory is an individual’s exclusive domain, which consists of his or her personal belongings including his or her laptop, backpack, house, or even bedroom. Secondary territory signals a person’s affiliation with a certain area or object, such as his or her favorite bar, restaurant, or a particular seat in class. Public territory refers to the territory that is not owned by the individual, but is open to all. An example of this would be a local dog park within a city (Proxemic Communication).

People take measures to protect their territory. Some measures are fairly small and subtle while others are more direct and intentional. The common ways people protect their perceived space can be classified as central markers, boundary markers, and ear markers. Central markers would include placing your book bag or jacket in the seat next to you so that no one will sit next there. Boundary markers would be the fence between your house and your neighbor. Earmarkers would include marking your belongings with your initials, such as on your clothes (Tylee).

The actions people take to ensure their space demonstrates that they care about their space, which means any encroachments or violations to their space usually result in defensive behaviors. The four customary reactions are withdrawal, insulation, turf defense, and linguistic collusion. An individual might withdraw and just simply move away. If the individual chooses insulation, they will build boundaries with the encroacher. Turf defense would encompass the owner expelling the encroacher. Linguistic collusion is the most extreme reaction. Linguistic collusion would include verbally assaulting the encroacher to make him or her feel unwanted and unwarranted (Hale). The video below is an advertisement for a European airline, but it clearly demonstrates territorial encroachment and the reactions to personal space violations.

As you can clearly see, people are territorial and want their personal space respected. After reading this blog, I hope you have been informed on proxemic encroachments. The next time someone violates your personal space, you’ll be able to assess the situation and have an appropriate reaction.


Works Cited

Hale, David. “Non-Verbal Communication: Withdrawal, Insulation, and Turf Defense.” Ezine Articles 24 Dec. 2010: n. pag. Ezine Web. 6 Dec. 2011 <­Verbal-­Communication:-­Withdrawal,-­Insulation,-­and-­Turf-­Defense&id=5610001&gt;.

“Proxemic Communication.” Changing Minds. Org. Changing Minds, 2011. Web. 6 Dec 2011. <;.

Tylee, Jennifer. “Non-Verbal Communication: Paralinguistics, Space and Touch.” Editorial. Education 4 Skills. Com. N.p., n.d. Web. 6 Dec 2011. <;.

Early Childhood Proxemics

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Phyllis W. Berman and Vicki L. Smith explored how natural signs of proxemics can been seen in pre-adolescent children.   “Smiling, touching and maintenance of proximity are usually thought to be signs of affiliation between peers with the same gender” (p. 347). The basis of the study is that outward signs of affection are naturally more prevalent in female vs. male children.  The study involved 128 male and 128 female children which were randomly paired to a same-sex, same-grade partner for the duration experiment. The random paring insures that the participants did not pick a partner based on pre-existing friendships.  The experiment measured the amount of outward signs of affection between partners during a photo shoot.  Berman and Smith set up a backdrop for a picture and asked the students to pose for the photo with their random matched partner.

The study found that the males and females did not differ significantly as to whether or not they stood close to or touched same-sex peers. Results showed a striking difference in the amount of smiling by each gender, with females smiling more than males. However, the females smiled always regardless of their partner’s gender.  Berman and Smith noted that the study was limited due to a controlled environment. The results may have been impacted by familiarity of the school or the controlled photo shoot area.

Although the study above was not sufficient enough to prove that proximics does impact childhood development further studies could be better designed to measure proximic theory in children. A public playground offers a more natural environment for children to interact together. A study accumulating data on natural poxemic tendencies while at play would be a better tool for proving the hypothesis that outward signs of affection are more prevalent among females vs. males.

As a parent of a two year old boy, there are many observances I can make. Like the study mentioned above, Photo A: Young Children Interacting (below), shows two boys and two girls posing for a photo. The children in this photo are cousins. One can observe that the girls are more comfortable with contact than the boys in the photo.

Photo A: Young Children Interacting


Works Cited

Berman, Phyllis W., and Vicki L. Smith. “Gender And Situational Differences in Children’s Smiles, Touch, And Proxemics.” Sex Roles 10.5-6 (1984): 347-356. PsycINFO. Web 2 Dec. 2011.

Proxemics and Gender

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The distance or personal space between individuals can vary between genders. This is sometimes known as proxemics. Does our gender really dictate how we determine what appropriate space between one another is?  Is equal distance used when interacting with our own gender or is it different for people of the opposite gender?   Steven Madden, with the University of North Dakota, commissioned a study to “(a) identify gender differences as they relate to spatial usage and (b) to test the assertion that females’ space is “violated” more often than males” (p. 41).

The study hypothesized that more participants would approach the female assistant closer but in actuality found the opposite. Madden observed how 506 people in a public setting and their gender affected the distance and approach between males and females. Madden’s study had 292 of the participants approach a male research assistant and 214 approached the female assistants. It breaks down to 206 females approached a male and 137 females approached a female. The males did not seem to display any preference. Of the male participants, 77 approached female assistants and 86 approached the male assistant. The research showed that regardless of gender choice, the females more often chose to approach a male research assistant more often and at a closer distance than a female research assistant. The females would also wait in lines to go to a male assistant over a female.

Madden also hypothesized the respondents regardless of their gender would approach the female assistant at a closer distance than the male assistants.  Results showed female participants approached the male assistant much closer (at 6 inches and 12 inches) than they approached the female (18 inches). Madden concluded that gender alone does not encourage contact (approach and distance) between the assistant and the participant, thus his hypothesis was disproven.

Madden’s study illuminates other research questions as to what other factors play a role in proxemics beside gender. Does the participant’s sexuality, the situation at hand, or even the environment contribute to the distance between two people when they are interacting?

Video evidence of Madden’s findings can be seen the YouTube video, Handing out Fliers for Nine Inch Nails:  In this clip one can observe how the personal space changes when they are handing fliers to males and when they hands them to females.

Another example of Madden’s findings can even be seen in one’s own family.  In Photo A the distance between males and males is closer to that of males and females, thus confirming Madden’s results.

Photo A: Family Gathering

Works Cited

Madden, Steven J. “Proxemics and Gender: Where’s The Spatial Gap?.” North Dakota Journal of Speech & Theatre 12. (1999):  41-46. Communication & Mass Media Complete. Web. 2 Dec. 2011

Sugarboogie78. Handing out Fliers for Nine Inch Nails. YouTube. N.p., Aug.-Sept. 2008. Web. 6 Dec. 2011. <;.

A.H. (12/6/11)

Interrogation Techniques using Proxemics

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Interrogation Techniques using Proxemics

Understanding and interpreting nonverbal communication can be difficult but in 1948 John Reid observed and studied behaviors in an interview (Brougham). He understood that individuals portray different behaviors when giving truthful information compared to false. It is not often that you are part of an interview on a daily basis but it is interesting how the human body reacts in situations. When interviewed under stressful conditions, individuals exhibit body movement, body positions, facial expressions, physiological symptoms, and paralanguage.  Investigators are able to use body position, better known as proxemics, to encourage desired and truthful responses. Each individual has four different categories for distance. The first is intimate, which is 0-1.5 feet from the body. Personal space includes 1.5-4 feet from the body. Social space is from 4-10 feet and after that concludes public space (Burgoon). Interviews probably start off in the social space; asking the suspect simple information. Rein believes that investigators can use proxemics to get closer into the suspects or subjects intimate space, where the suspect feels uncomfortable lying. Charles G. Brougham states “When an interviewer creates a high level of anxiety for a psychologically normal person by invading this personal space, it becomes increasingly more difficult for the subject to lie.” Charles also states that starting off the interview at a comfortable distance is wise when getting general information and then moving closer to the subject when questioning. This provides the interviewer to “mentally program the individual to cooperate with the interviewer’s line of questioning.”(Brougham)

Mark Cook also thinks that proxemics is a great way to communicate nonverbally. Cook explains how Argyle and Dean believed that proximity increased intimacy, and therefore affects the tone of the relationship. He also explains how individuals sitting across from each other increases eye contact and encourages a relationship. This too is something investigators probably recognize. It is probably common for an interviewer to start off in an individual’s social space moving into personal space slowly. He then may sit down or stand across from the subject moving closer to a personal and intimate space. This encourages the subject to speak truthfully (Cook).

Nonverbal communication may be difficult to understand sometimes, but proxemics is a great way to use nonverbal communication to encourage truthful speaking whether or not during an interrogation.


Work Cited

Brougham, Charles G. “NONVERBAL COMMUNICATION.” SIRS Government Reporter. ProQuest, July 1992. Web. Nov.-Dec. 2011. http://

Burgoon, Judee K., Laura K. Guerrero, and Kory Floyd. “The Contact Codes: Haptics and Proxemics.” Nonverbal Communication. Boston: Allyn & Bacon, 2010. 167-68. Print

Cook, Mark. Experiments on Orientation and Proxemics. Vol. 23. Human Relations, 1970. 61-76. Sage Journal Online. Web. Nov.-Dec. 2011. http://