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Nonverbal intimacy: Clarifying the role of seating distance and orientation

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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.

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

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