ERIC Number: ED286083
Record Type: RIE
Publication Date: 1983
Effects of Invasion of Students' Personal Space by Male and Female Authority Figures.
Altenburger, Janice D.
Nonverbal communication, which includes proxemics, or the study of an individual's use of space, plays a major role in communication relationships. Culture, gender, and status can all influence one's use of personal space. This study was designed to investigate the physiological effects (heart rate and galvanic skin response) of the invasion of a student's personal space contingent upon the sex of an authority figure (male or female university professor). Twelve male and 12 female undergraduates halted an approaching professor at what was felt to be a distance suitable for a comfortable conversation. The professor then advanced to an invasion distance of 9 inches. Subjects' physiological data were analyzed at both conversation and invasion distances, using t-tests and two-way analyses of variance. The results revealed that student-controlled stop-distances fell within the categories of intimate (contact to 18 inches), casual/personal (18 inches to 4 feet), and social/consultative (4 to 12 feet). Means showed that on an average, professors were permitted within the casual/personal area, with the female mean distance being slightly closer than the male mean. The results also indicated that the sex of the professor did not have a significant effect on the physiological responses of the students. This finding may reflect a change in attitudes toward women and gains in female status. (Author/NB)
Publication Type: Reports - Research
Education Level: N/A
Authoring Institution: N/A