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Laura K. Guerrero

Subject Psychology
Communication Studies » Interpersonal Communication

DOI: 10.1111/b.9781405131995.2008.x


Proxemics is the study of how humans perceive, structure, and use space as communication. Space helps people manage the dual needs for privacy and closeness in social and personal relationships. Early work on proxemics focused on classifying territory and conversational distance. Contemporary research has examined how proxemics is related to messages such as liking and dominance. A territory is a fixed geographic space that is occupied, controlled, and defended by a person or group. Scholars have identified four basic types of territory ( Altman 1975 ; Lyman & Scott 1967 ). “Body territory” includes a person's physical body as well as the invisible, adjustable, and portable bubble of personal space surrounding one's body. Personal space insulates people against physical and emotional threats from the external environment, including other people. “Primary or home territories” are private spaces that clearly belong to a person or group and provide a physical and psychological retreat from the public world. People can let their guard down in primary territories such as homes, cars, and private offices. “Secondary or interactional territories” are semi-public territories that are inhabited and temporarily “owned” by particular people at different times. Examples include university classrooms, country clubs, and gyms. Finally, “public territory” is open for use by anyone. Public ... log in or subscribe to read full text

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