A further look at equilibrium theory: Visual interaction as a function of interpersonal distance

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Abstract

This paper presents a study that examined the relationship between visual interaction and interpersonal distance as it relates to an equilibrium theory of social interaction. Differential boundaries were found to exist for the effect of distance on five highly related male and female visual behaviors, exemplifying different overall equilibrium levels for the sexes. While males looked more as distance increased, females looked less after an intermediate distance of 6.5 feet. These data support a modified equilibrium model that posits that eye contact functions to regulate the comfort of an interaction and is also a response to the degree of interaction comfort; further, comfortable interaction distances promote eye contact and, more importantly, uncomfortable distances diminish it. Because women tend to be more oriented toward inclusive relationships, they are more comfortable at closer interaction distances and, hence, look more at these distances. At greater distance, however, they are more uncomfortable and, consequently, look less.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)122-140
Number of pages19
JournalEnvironmental Psychology and Nonverbal Behavior
Volume1
Issue number2
DOIs
StatePublished - Mar 1977

All Science Journal Classification (ASJC) codes

  • Social Psychology
  • Psychology(all)

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