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

Abstract

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.

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Acknowledgements

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.

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Correspondence to Farid Pazhoohi.

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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.

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Pazhoohi, F., Silva, C., Lamas, J. et al. The effect of height and shoulder-to-hip ratio on interpersonal space in virtual environment. Psychological Research 83, 1184–1193 (2019). https://doi.org/10.1007/s00426-017-0968-1

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Keywords

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