Effects of personal space on pro-social behavior

This topic submitted by Zane, Chris, Rachel (jediboy531@yahoo.com) at 11:25 am on 12/11/01. Additions were last made on Wednesday, January 29, 2003. Section: Dorsey

If someone invaded your personal space, would you be more, or less likely to help him or her given the opportunity? This is the question that our group will explore. Every person has their own “personal space” which allows them to feel comfortable. Depending on a person’s company that comfort zone increases and decreases. We plan to show how much of an impact an intrusion into that personal space has on a person’s behavior by staging an experiment to test the reaction to an invasion of personal space.
As a rule, people have always been characteristically territorial. Territoriality is the behavior that an organism demonstrates to claim an area and defend it from other organisms. Among the areas highly guarded by humans, perhaps the most prized is personal space. Anthropologist Edward Hall labeled these four areas surrounding a person as “bubbles” that serve to maintain proper spacing between individuals. Each person is said to have four zones of comfort around themselves, ranging from intimate, personal, social, and public. Each consecutive zone reaches farther away from a person’s body, and as a result, each consecutive zone is less personal than the last. The first zone, the intimate zone, is located 0 to 18 inches from the body. The second zone, personal zone, ranges from one and a half feet to four feet from the body. The third zone, the social zone stretches from four to twelve feet from the body. The final zone, the public zone, encompasses anything outside of twelve feet from the body.
We are focusing on the two middle zones, the personal and the social. Our hypothesis is that seated persons whose personal space was not invaded, but rather their social was, will help more often when that opportunity arises. This line of research is based on Konechi et al. (1975) and their conducted experiments. The experiment will show that a person who invades the social space of another will draw a more favorable reaction than if the personal space was invaded.
To accomplish our study, we must stage an experiment. This experiment will take place in the library. A group member will invade the personal space (18 inches to four feet) or the social space (four feet to twelve feet) of a seated individual. The researcher will pass by the seated individual and “accidentally” drop a stack of index note cards. The remaining group members will observe the reactions of the seated individual, particularly as to whether the individual assists in picking up the fallen cards. The results of twenty-five tests for each of the two zones of study will be tabulated in our final report.
As the world’s population density grows, the need to make space for people increases. By recognizing the various zones of involvement, relationships and emotions, more people can live comfortably together. By conducting this experiment, we are trying to determine how much space people need to feel comfortable. If people feel uncomfortable, they become more stressed. When people become more stressed, they become more sensitive to over crowding, and more space is required for each person.
Materials and Methods
The question arises in our research of why we are not studying the other two zones of personal space. We decided to omit the intimate zone because the test would have interfered with the studied individual too much. Throughout this lab, we are trying to maintain a lack of knowledge on the part of the observed individual to achieve higher accuracy. We also omitted the fourth zone, the public zone, because we felt that it would not draw any reactions from the intended seated individual. Our goal was to have one specific person get up and help the group member. It was decided that at a distance greater than twelve feet, the seated individual would not bother to get up to help, when another individual might, thus interfering with our research.
We are taking several different steps to insure accurate research. We will decide on a standard routine to approach the seated individual, and we will try not to deviate from it, so that each study is performed with little variance. To ensure accurate studies are taken, the group member who drops the note cards will not ask for assistance, nor will he/she speak to the seated individual, unless prompted by that individual. Throughout each of the twenty-five trials for each zone, we will strive to maintain equal distance between the individual and the group member, so that the test is fair to each seated individual. Through these methods, and others still to be discovered, we will assure the reliability of our research experiment.

Week 6
Brainstormed, selected the idea of personal space. Then we surfed the web for related works on personal space.
Week 8

We posted our idea on web page. Debated several more specific hypotheses and methods of experimentation, expanding on our idea. Decided upon work with personal and social space and its relationship on pro-social behavior.
Week 9

Researched for relevance that our generated data would provide. Found that it related to current issues of overcrowding. Class review of our ideas and revisions of our methods followed. Turn in written proposal.

Week 10

Worked on class participation ideas for lab packet presentation. Created data sheet and reviewed the materials would be needed for our study. Turned in revised lab packet.
Week 12

We are presenting our lab packet to the class, utilizing peer participation in our research experiment.

Weeks 10-15

Collecting data and finalizing lab report. Forming conclusions from organized results.
Week 16

Final research paper is due

To involve the class in our research process, we have outlined the main points of our in-class work time.
Give background/introduction to personal space. Explain the four zones of comfort.
Explain our specific focus on the personal and social relationships. Explain how others have studied personal space.
How we are studying? Pro-social behavior encouraged or discouraged.
Demonstration of our testing method.
If possible, a Jerry Seinfeld episode on personal space. (This is dependant on the availability of the TV episode)
Talk about overcrowding and its relationship to 2001 and personal space.
Talk about relationship to architecture, which is really a study of space.
Overcrowding causes frustration, which is a big problem. We need to learn about personal space now so we can encourage pro-social behavior in a crowded future.

The results of the personal space experiment proved that people are more likely to help someone if his/her personal space is invaded. The results were sixteen out of twenty people helped pick up note cards when the cards were dropped into their personal zone. Only nine people helped pick up the cards when they were dropped in their social zone. Our results prove that our hypothesis was incorrect, and in reality, people are more likely to help someone if the personal space is invaded. This may be because people feel obligated to help when the problem is brought so close to their awareness. By dropping the cards further away from someone it is easier to pretend one did not notice the problem.
The experiment may have been affected by a number of factors one being the gender relationships involved. A female may have been more likely to help another female, while a male ma have been more likely to help a female. Furthermore, culture was probably another major influence on this experiment. Different cultures are comfortable with having people enter different zones. Age would also affect out experiment. A much older person may hesitate to pick up note cards for a capable youth
For future studying, taking into consideration all of these things factors may confuse the results and experimenter. More trials would be beneficial to make the data less random. Patterns of behavior would become more apparent with the more trials carried out.

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