Journal of population

, Volume 1, Issue 3, pp 216–230 | Cite as

Reducing crowding without increasing space: Some applications of an attributional theory of crowding

  • Stephen Worchel


Given a choice, few people would actively choose to be crowded. Crowding, or more correctly, the lack of crowding, has become a commodity that often determines the value of a particular piece of real estate or location. Viewing crowding as synonomous to density gives a rather dismal prognostication for the fate of millions of people. It is simply impossible to increase the amount of space available to individuals incarcerated in cities, prisons, mental institutions, or other situations where space is at a premium.

However, the present view that links crowding to personal space and attribution offers a more optimistic view. I have attempted to simply scratch the surface of the possible measures that can be utilized to reduce crowding without increasing space. These measures fit both the theory and the research and seem not only to affect perceptions of crowding but also behavioral and interpersonal processes.

While I think the results are encouraging, there are numerous questions that still must be answered before the personal space-attribution formula can be prescribed for public consumption. Such questions involve how lasting the effects of misattribution are in changing people's perceptions and behaviors. Also, can we actually get people to misattribute the cause of their arousal in situations that are familiar to them? That is, will the seasoned subway rider who has taken the subway to work for the last 20 years rearrange his perceptions and feel less crowded in this familiar environment? Before dismissing the possibility of causing these effects, it should be pointed out that this misattribution process has been utilized with some success to treat phobic individuals who have experienced phobia for much of their lives (Cooper, personal communication). In summary, there are still a number of questions to be answered but there are potential benefits from the resent approach to crowding.


Personal Communication Potential Benefit Real Estate Public Consumption Personal Space 
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Copyright information

© Human Sciences Press 1978

Authors and Affiliations

  • Stephen Worchel
    • 1
  1. 1.University of VirginiaUSA

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