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There
have been a myriad of researches on proxemic behavior which reveal extremely
exciting and useful information about how space is used as communication and
its subsequent effects on communication outcomes. Watson (1972) conceived two classes of variables that determine
proxemic behavior, i.e. interactant (or participant) and environmental
variables. Another category, variables related to the nature of the
interaction, was added by Burgoon and
Jones (1976). Especially, I am really interested in the last classification
that basically consists of “formality or intimacy of the situation and
topic, familiarity of the interactants with the setting, the purpose of the
interaction, and, in group situations, the presence of a leader” (p. 134).

In Hall’s
(1966) analysis based on anthropological observations, personal distance
(founded on the degree of intimacy or formality of an interaction) is described
in four distinct zones: intimate space (close phase: less than 1 to 2 cm, far
phase: 6 -18 inches), personal space (close phase: 1.5 – 2.5 feet, far phase: 2.5
to 4 feet), social space (close phase: 4 – 7 feet, far phase: 7 – 12 feet), and
public space (close phase: 12 – 25 feet, far phase: 25 feet or more). The first
phase is for private interactions or physical contact, such as embracing,
touching or whispering or in Hall’s words – “this is the distance of
love-making and wrestling, comforting and protecting” (p. 117). The second one
is for situations involving less sensory involvement.  The third one is for such exchanges as
“impersonal business” or “social gathering” (p. 121). The last one is used for
used for public speaking or distances from public officials. Despite not
clarifying the personal space as specifically as Hall, Engleberg &
Wynn (2006) maintained the
four zones. Close friends, lovers, children and close family members are
allowed in the intimate zone. The next zone is reserved for conversations with
friends, to chat with associates, and in group discussions. A further range is used
for strangers, newly formed groups, and new acquaintances. Speeches, lectures,
and theater which are for larger audiences are presented in the farthest
distance.

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It is widely agreed that personal space is higly
valued and people tend to feel discomfortable, angry, or anxious when their
personal space is invaded; and acoording to Engleberg & Wynn (2006), permitting a person to come into personal space
and entering somebody else’s personal space are indicators of perception of
those people’s relationship. Moreover,
clearly, no matter the culture, the distance zones that
we choose for different groups and people can communicate our feelings towards
them in very powerful ways. Intimate distance is obviously
the space set aside only for those who we trust, love and consider the most
important in our social spheres. If such people are present in our most inner
circle, we, of course, enjoy their presence, but to other uninvited existence,
we will shut down and try to retain somehow our comfort zone. This explains why we feel uneasy, embarrassed or even
furious when a person we are not familiar with gives a sudden hug or kiss. The confusion and panic caused by one’s exposure
to unwelcome invasion of his/her personal distance can be usefully exploited in
some cases. “For example, one of the
popular interrogation techniques is to intimidate the suspect by getting very
close to invade his intimate zone. Then, while he is helpless, try to exploit
his vulnerability and discomfort to extract information” (Tarakanov, n.d.). People that we feel at ease around and have a good
relationship with are accepted in personal zone, which is an easy and relaxed space for “talking,
shaking hands, gesturing and making faces” (Tarakanov,
n.d.). Depending on personal preference and affection, this zone may
contain some smaller divisions but the main point is that the more we like
someone, the closer we tend to sit or stand to him/her. This is the reason why
people of the same group have a tendency of sitting in same table when they
attend parties and even in the same group, people often choose to sit next to
the person they share more things in common and feel comfortable to talk to

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