Preferred Personal Spaces (09-29-21)

Holt, Zapetis, Babadi, and Tootell chart how COVID has influenced the size of our preferred personal space zones.  They report that “during the COVID-19 pandemic, social distancing recommendations led to deliberate expansions of personal space outside of intimate social circles. In the laboratory, personal space preferences are quite stable over repeated measurements. Here, we collected such measurements both before and during the pandemic in the same individuals, using both conventional and virtual reality-based techniques. We found that the size of personal space, and discomfort ratings in response to personal space intrusions, increased significantly during the COVID-19 pandemic, in response to both real humans and virtual ‘others’. Moreover, this increase in personal space requirements correlated with the perceived, not the actual, risk of being infected with COVID-19 – even in a virtual reality environment in which there was no possibility of infection. Thus, quantification of personal space may reveal some of the psychological effects of the pandemic, and subsequent progress towards recovery.”

Daphne Holt, Sarah Zapetis, Baktash Babadi, and Roger Tootell.  “Personal Space Increases During the COVID-19 Pandemic in Response to Real and Virtual Humans.”  medRxiv, https://doi.org/10.1101/2021.06.09.21258234