Problem with Close-Talking? Blame the Brain

Why is it so uncomfortable to stand really close to a stranger? Sure, there are the potentially icky things. Sometimes an elevator car is so crowded that you can smell a fellow rider's shampoo or chewing gum (or worse). But even when a stranger is perfectly groomed, it's usually a bit revolting to be pressed against him in public. Why?

A team of scientists from Caltech put SM through a series of tests in which they asked her to indicate the position at which she became uncomfortable as another woman, a researcher, approached her. SM's preferred personal distance was 1.1 ft. (0.34 m), about half the preferred distance (2 ft., or 0.64 m) of a group of comparison subjects. At 1 ft., you can easily discern whether someone showered after the gym — although in the lab experiment, the Caltech researchers made sure the experimenter was well-scrubbed and had just chewed gum before interacting with SM.


From the Upcoming ueue, submitted by Rossy21.

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I hate when people keep getting closer when you move away. When that happens I usually put one foot in front of the other and stand like I'm getting ready to take a step so the person can't move closer! :)
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I called that the 'talk dance', because in international meeetings, you can see people moving by pairs, one back, one forth, all over the meeting room.

Just add the Benny Hill music...
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In previous social experiments, I've read that the average "comfortable" standing distance for two socially engaged individuals changes by culture. In England, it is more than 4 feet, in the US it is around three, and in China it can be as little as two or sometimes less. I've seen this in experience too. I (American) work with tons of foreigners and I've found that when I feel uncomfortably close to a Chinese friend and I casually step back, they [probably unconsciously] step forward... It gets annoying to be honest. The same goes the opposite way with my Euro friends. Odd, but true. I've just learned [also unconsciously] to adjust to this when I'm talking to someone from this or that or that other or that other other country.
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Personal space is highly variable in different cultures. From wikipedia:

... a person from India attempting to talk to someone from Britain can often cause situations where one person steps forward to enter what they perceive as a conversational distance, and the person they are talking can step back to restore their personal space.
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