The effect of height and shoulder-to-hip ratio on interpersonal space in virtual environment

  • Farid Pazhoohi
  • Carlos Silva
  • João Lamas
  • Sandra Mouta
  • Jorge Santos
  • Joana Arantes
Original Article


Previous research has associated men’s physical features such as height and Shoulder-to-Hip Ratio (SHR) with dominance. Proxemics literature has suggested that the interpersonal space (comfort distance) increases in threatening and uncomfortable situations and decreases in unthreatening and comfortable situations. In the current study, we aimed to investigate the effect of different heights and SHRs on comfortable interpersonal distance by systematic manipulation of virtual confederates bodily features. More specifically, participants determined their comfort distances from virtual male confederates with different heights and SHRs in a virtual environment. We hypothesized that a virtual confederate’s height and SHR influences the perception of interpersonal dominance; and consequently interpersonal space increases for taller and broader confederates as a result of increased interpersonal dominance. Results showed that comfortable interpersonal distance was positively associated with height for male participants, but not for female participants. No effect was found for shoulder width, neither for male nor female participants. Results were discussed in terms of the importance of height as a signal of dominance and fighting ability.


Interpersonal space Comfort distance Height Shoulder-to-hip ratio Dominance Fighting ability 



This study was supported by Bial Foundation Grant 143/14. FP receives funding from Fundação para a Ciência e a Tecnologia (FCT) Portugal through grant SFRH/BD/114366/2016; JA receives funding from FCT Portugal through grant IF/01298/2014.

Compliance with ethical standards

Ethical approval

All procedures performed in studies involving human participants were in accordance with the ethical standards of the institutional and/or national research committee and with the 1964 Helsinki declaration and its later amendments or comparable ethical standards.

Conflict of interest

The authors declare that they have no conflict of interest.

Informed consent

Informed consent was obtained from all individual participants included in the study.


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Copyright information

© Springer-Verlag GmbH Germany, part of Springer Nature 2018

Authors and Affiliations

  • Farid Pazhoohi
    • 1
  • Carlos Silva
    • 2
    • 3
  • João Lamas
    • 2
  • Sandra Mouta
    • 2
  • Jorge Santos
    • 1
    • 2
    • 4
  • Joana Arantes
    • 1
  1. 1.Department of Basic Psychology, School of PsychologyUniversity of MinhoBragaPortugal
  2. 2.Centre for Computer GraphicsGuimarãesPortugal
  3. 3.Department of InformaticsSchool of Engineering University of MinhoGuimarãesPortugal
  4. 4.Center AlgoritmiUniversity of MinhoGuimarãesPortugal

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