Skip to main content
Log in

Nonverbal intimacy: Clarifying the role of seating distance and orientation

  • Published:
Journal of Nonverbal Behavior Aims and scope Submit manuscript

Abstract

Two studies clarify how distance and orientation affect intimacy in seating arrangements. Previous research had examined only observer-defined intimacy, used questionnaires to represent seating arrangement, or confounded distance and orientation. Study 1, a re-analysis of classic data, indicated that traditional conclusions regarding the joint role of distance and orientation as determinants of intimacy were unwarranted. Study 2 systematically varied distance and orientation in a “live” interaction and examined actor-defined intimacy. Actors' judgments of the intimacy of the seating arrangements were strongly related to distance, but not to orientation. This was true regardless of actors' level of sociability. These findings are discussed in terms of Patterson's (1983) functional approach to nonverbal behavior.

This is a preview of subscription content, log in via an institution to check access.

Access this article

Subscribe and save

Springer+ Basic
EUR 32.99 /Month
  • Get 10 units per month
  • Download Article/Chapter or Ebook
  • 1 Unit = 1 Article or 1 Chapter
  • Cancel anytime
Subscribe now

Buy Now

Price excludes VAT (USA)
Tax calculation will be finalised during checkout.

Instant access to the full article PDF.

Similar content being viewed by others

References

  • Argyle, M., & Dean, J. Eye contact, distance and affiliation.Sociometry, 1965,28, 289–304.

    Google Scholar 

  • Cook, M. Experiments on orientation and proxemics.Human Relations, 1970,23, 61–67.

    Google Scholar 

  • Edinger, J. A., & Patterson, M. Nonverbal involvement and social control.Psychological Bulletin, 1983,93, 30–56.

    Google Scholar 

  • Felipe, N. Interpersonal distance and small group interaction.Cornell Journal of Social Relations, 1966,1, 59–64.

    Google Scholar 

  • Felipe, N. Connotations of seating arrangements.Cornell Journal of Social Relations, 1967,2, 37–44.

    Google Scholar 

  • Giesen, M., & McClaren, H. Discussion, distance, and sex: Changes in impressions and attraction during small group interaction.Sociometry, 1976,39, 60–70.

    Google Scholar 

  • Gifford, R. Projected interpersonal distance and orientation choices: Personality, sex and social situation.Social Psychology Quarterly, 1982,45, 145–152.

    Google Scholar 

  • Gough, H. G.Manual for the California Psychological Inventory. Palo Alto, California: Consulting Psychologists Press. 1975.

    Google Scholar 

  • Grice, G. R. Dependence of empirical laws upon the source of experimental variation.Psychological Bulletin, 1966,66, 488–498.

    PubMed  Google Scholar 

  • Patterson, M. A sequential functional model of nonverbal exchange.Psychological Review, 1982,89, 231–249.

    Google Scholar 

  • Patterson, M.Nonverbal behavior: A functional perspective. New York: Springer-Verlag. 1983.

    Google Scholar 

  • Scherer, S. E., & Schiff, M. R. Perceived intimacy, physical distance, and eye contact.Perceptual and Motor Skills, 1973,36, 835–841.

    PubMed  Google Scholar 

  • Scott, J. A. Comfort and seating distance in living rooms: The relationship of interactants and topic of conversation.Environment and Behavior, 1984,16, 35–54.

    Google Scholar 

  • Sommer, R. Studies in personal space.Sociometry, 1959,22, 247–260.

    Google Scholar 

  • Sommer, R. The distance for comfortable conversation: A further study.Sociometry, 1962,25, 111–116.

    Google Scholar 

  • Sommer, R. Intimacy ratings in five countries. Intimacy ratings in five countries.International Journal of Psychology, 1968,3, 109–114.

    Google Scholar 

  • Sommer, R.Personal space: The behavioral basis of design. Englewood Cliffs, New Jersey: Prentice Hall. 1969.

    Google Scholar 

  • Weiss, M., & Keys, C.The influence of proxemic variables on dyadic interaction between peers. Paper presented at the meeting of the American Psychological Association; Chicago, 1975, August.

Download references

Author information

Authors and Affiliations

Authors

Rights and permissions

Reprints and permissions

About this article

Cite this article

Gifford, R., O'Connor, B. Nonverbal intimacy: Clarifying the role of seating distance and orientation. J Nonverbal Behav 10, 207–214 (1986). https://doi.org/10.1007/BF00987480

Download citation

  • Issue Date:

  • DOI: https://doi.org/10.1007/BF00987480

Keywords

Navigation