Journal of Nonverbal Behavior

, Volume 34, Issue 1, pp 15–26 | Cite as

Interpersonal Distances in Group Walking

  • Marco CostaEmail author
Original Paper


The spatial organization of 1,020 groups comprised of adolescents and young adults, observed in an ecological setting while walking, was analyzed. Observations were made in an urban environment where walking speed could be considered. The results showed that male dyads and triads tended to walk abreast less often than female dyads. Mixed dyads walked abreast more often than same-sex dyads; and the males preceded the females in two-thirds of the cases. The male groups walked at a higher rate of speed than the female groups. Walking speed was correlated to misalignment between group members when walking. The most frequent spatial arrangement in triads was a “<” formation (as seen from above, while the walking direction was from left to right), with the middle individual positioned slightly behind in comparison to the lateral individuals. Groups comprised of more than three individuals tended to split themselves into single individuals, dyads, and triads.


Proxemic Interpersonal distances Group behavior 


  1. Aiello, J. R. (1987). Human spatial behavior. In D. Stokols & I. Altman (Eds.), Handbook of environmental psychology (pp. 505–531). New York: Wiley Interscience.Google Scholar
  2. Balogun, S. K. (1991). Personal space as affected by religions of the approaching and the approached people. Indian Journal of Behavior, 15, 45–50.Google Scholar
  3. Barnard, W. A., & Bell, P. A. (1997). An unobtrusive apparatus for measuring interpersonal distance. Journal of General Psychology, 107, 85–90.Google Scholar
  4. Barrios, B. A., Corbitt, L. C., Estes, J. P., & Topping, J. S. (1976). Effect of social stigma on interpersonal distance. The Psychological Record, 26, 342–348.Google Scholar
  5. Baxter, J. C. (1970). Interpersonal spacing in natural settings. Sociometry, 4, 444–456.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  6. Bell, P. A., Greene, T. C., Fisher, J. D., & Baum, A. (2001). Environmental psychology (5th ed.). Belmont: Thomson-Wadsworth.Google Scholar
  7. Berscheid, E., & Reis, H. (1998). Attraction and close relationships. In D. T. Gilbert, S. T. Fiske, & G. Lindzey (Eds.), The handbook of social psychology, Vols. 1 and 2 (4th ed., pp. 193–281). New York: McGraw Hill.Google Scholar
  8. Boles, W. (1981). The effect of density, sex, and group size upon pedestrian walking velocity. Man Environment System, 11, 37–40.Google Scholar
  9. Bornstein, M. H. (1976). The pace of life: Revisited. International Journal of Psychology, 14, 83–90.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  10. Bornstein, M. H., & Bornstein, H. G. (1976). The pace of life. Nature, 259, 557–559.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  11. Burgess, J. W. (1979). Measurement of spatial behavior: Methodology applied to rhesus monkeys, neon tetras, communal and solitary spiders, cockroaches, and gnat in open fields. Behavioral and Neural Biology, 26, 132–160.CrossRefPubMedGoogle Scholar
  12. Burgess, J. W. (1980). Social group spacing of rhesus macaque troops in outdoor enclosures: Environmental effects. Behavioral and Neural Biology, 30, 49–55.CrossRefPubMedGoogle Scholar
  13. Burgess, J. W. (1983a). Developmental trends in proxemic spacing behavior between surrounding companions and strangers in casual groups. Journal of Nonverbal Behavior, 7, 158–169.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  14. Burgess, J. W. (1983b). Interpersonal spacing behavior between surround nearest neighbors reflects both familiarity and environmental density. Ethology and Sociobiology, 4, 11–17.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  15. Burgess, J. W. (1984). Do humans show a “species-typical group size”? Age, sex, and environmental differences in the size and composition of naturally-occurring casual groups. Ethology and Sociobiology, 5, 51–57.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  16. Burgess, J. W. (1989). The social biology of human populations: Spontaneous group formation conforms to evolutionary predictions of adaptive aggregation patterns. Ethology and Sociobiology, 10, 343–359.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  17. Caplan, M. E., & Goldman, M. (1981). Personal space violation as a function of height. Journal of Social Psychology, 114, 167–171.Google Scholar
  18. Ciolek, T. M. (1983). The proxemics lexicon: A first approximation. Journal of Nonverbal Behavior, 8, 55–79.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  19. Cook, M. (1970). Experiments on orientation and proxemics. Human Relations, 23, 61–76.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  20. Crawford, M., & Unger, R. (2000). Women and gender: A feminist psychology (3rd ed.). New York: McGraw-Hill.Google Scholar
  21. DePaulo, B., & Friedman, H. (1998). Nonverbal communication. In D. T. Gilbert, S. T. Fiske, & G. Lindzey (Eds.), The handbook of social psychology, Vols. 1 and 2 (4th ed., pp. 3–39). New York: McGraw Hill.Google Scholar
  22. Frankel, A. S., & Barrett, J. (1971). Variations in personal space as a function of authoritarianism, self-esteem, and racial characteristics of a stimulus situations. Journal of Consulting and Clinical Psychology, 37, 95–98.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  23. Greene, L. R. (1976). Effects of field dependence on affective reactions and compliance in dyadic interactions. Journal of Personality and Social Psychology, 34, 569–577.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  24. Hall, E. T. (1966). The hidden dimension. New York: Doubleday.Google Scholar
  25. Hall, J. A. (1984). Nonverbal sex differences: Communication accuracy and expressive style. Baltimore: Johns Hopkins University Press.Google Scholar
  26. Hall, J. A., Coats, E. J., & Smith LeBeau, L. (2005). Nonverbal behavior and the vertical dimension of social relations: A meta-analysis. Psychological Bulletin, 131, 898–924.CrossRefPubMedGoogle Scholar
  27. Hartnett, J. J., Bailey, K. G., & Hartley, H. S. (1974). Body height, position, and sex as determinants of personal space. Journal of Psychology: Interdisciplinary and Applied, 87, 129–136.Google Scholar
  28. Hayduk, L. A. (1983). Personal space: Where we now stand. Psychological Bulletin, 94, 293–335.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  29. Heshka, S., & Nelson, Y. (1972). Interpersonal speaking distance as a function of age, sex, and relationship. Sociometry, 35, 491–498.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  30. Hoel, L. A. (1968). Pedestrian travel rates in central business districts. Traffic Engineering, 38, 10–13.Google Scholar
  31. Holmes, R. M. (1992). Children’s artwork and nonverbal communication. Child Study Journal, 22, 157–166.Google Scholar
  32. Karabenick, S. A., & Meisels, M. (1972). Effects of performance evaluation on interpersonal distance. Journal of Personality, 40, 275–286.CrossRefPubMedGoogle Scholar
  33. Kaya, N., & Erkip, F. E. (1999). Invasion of personal space under the condition of short-term crowding: A case study on an automatic teller machine. Journal of Environmental Psychology, 19, 183–189.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  34. Kline, L. M., & Bell, P. A. (1984). Field dependence and interpersonal distance. Bulletin of the Psychonomic Society, 22, 421–422.Google Scholar
  35. Knowles, E. S. (1972). Boundaries around social space: Dyadic responses to an invader. Environment and Behavior, 4, 437–445.Google Scholar
  36. Knowles, E. S. (1976). Group size and the extension of social space boundaries. Journal of Personality and Social Psychology, 33, 647–654.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  37. Knowles, E. S., & Brickner, M. A. (1981). Social cohesion effects on spatial cohesion. Personality and Social Psychology Bulletin, 7, 309–313.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  38. Lott, B. S., & Sommer, R. (1967). Seating arrangements and status. Journal of Personality and Social Psychology, 7, 90–95.CrossRefPubMedGoogle Scholar
  39. Maccoby, E. E. (1990). Gender and relationships: A developmental account. American Psychologist, 45, 513–520.CrossRefPubMedGoogle Scholar
  40. Mehrabian, A., & Diamond, S. G. (1971). Effects of furniture arrangement, props, and personality on social interaction. Journal of Personality and Social Psychology, 20, 18–30.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  41. Moreno, J. L. (1953). Who shall survive: Foundations of sociometry, group psychotherapy, and sociodrama. New York: Beacon House.Google Scholar
  42. Patterson, M. L. (1977). Interpersonal distance, affect, and equilibrium theory. Journal of Social Psychology, 101, 205–214.Google Scholar
  43. Remland, M. S., Jones, T. S., & Brinkman, H. (1995). Interpersonal distance, body orientation, and touch: Effects of culture, gender, and age. Journal of Social Psychology, 135, 281–297.PubMedGoogle Scholar
  44. Schmid Mast, M. (2002). Female dominance hierarchies: Are they any different from males’? Personality and Social Psychology Bulletin, 28, 29–39.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  45. Strayer, J., & Roberts, W. (1997). Children’s personal distance and their empathy: Indices of interpersonal closeness. International Journal of Behavioral Development, 20, 385–403.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  46. Walmsley, D. J., & Lewis, G. J. (1989). The pace of pedestrian flows in cities. Environment and Behavior, 21, 123–150.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  47. Wellens, A. R., & Goldberg, M. L. (1978). The effects of interpersonal distance and orientation upon the perception of social relationships. Journal of Psychology, 99, 39–47.Google Scholar
  48. Willis, F. N. (1966). Initial speaking distance as the function of the speakers’ relationship. Psychonomic Science, 5, 221–222.Google Scholar
  49. Wirtz, P., & Ries, G. (1992). The pace of life-reanalysed: Why does walking speed of pedestrians correlate with city size? Behaviour, 123, 77–83.CrossRefGoogle Scholar

Copyright information

© Springer Science+Business Media, LLC 2009

Authors and Affiliations

  1. 1.Department of PsychologyUniversity of BolognaBolognaItaly

Personalised recommendations