Listening to a conversation with aggressive content expands the interpersonal space

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Abstract

The distance individuals maintain between themselves and others can be defined as ‘interpersonal space’. This distance can be modulated both by situational factors and individual characteristics. Here we investigated the influence that the interpretation of other people interaction, in which one is not directly involved, may have on a person’s interpersonal space. In the current study we measured, for the first time, whether the size of interpersonal space changes after listening to other people conversations with neutral or aggressive content. The results showed that the interpersonal space expands after listening to a conversation with aggressive content relative to a conversation with a neutral content. This finding suggests that participants tend to distance themselves from an aggressive confrontation even if they are not involved in it. These results are in line with the view of the interpersonal space as a safety zone surrounding one’s body.

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Vagnoni, E., Lewis, J., Tajadura-Jiménez, A., & Cardini, F. (2018). Listening to a conversation with aggressive content expands the interpersonal space. PLoS ONE, 13(3). https://doi.org/10.1371/journal.pone.0192753

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