Proxemics: Distance and Approach in Gender

Tori Rodriquez

The experiment completed in this research article, consisted of a study to find how females and males approach one another and distance themselves from one another.

In the past, it was determined that first, male and female participants will approach female assistants when given a choice between the two, and second, more male and female participants will approach a female client at a closer distance than a male. There are two ways to test this exploration, H1: Approach by gender and H2: Distance by gender.

A health care facility was chosen for this study in a southeastern city, a public location where total strangers come in and out of the building. The hospital administrators themselves were conducting a survey of their own over physical appearances of the building and allowed local students to hand out questionnaires. In the meantime, the administrators of the hospital also agreed to proceed with the existing study since in no way interfered with theirs.

The team for this study included two females and two males. They were picked on the basis of related height, weight, age, and race. They were instructed to wear the same clothing as well. First, they were ordered to hand out surveys with no additional contact, second, not to make any facial expression but a smile and no verbal communication, and third, to have a survey on hand at all times. These three instructions were all they must do and surveys were self explanatory.

As the participants walked through the main entrance of the building, hospital employees asked people coming through if they cared to fill out a survey regarding the physical features of the building itself.  Once agreed upon, they were taken to a room close to the entrance and were shifted to the front of the room where the four (two female, two male) confederates sat. The associates were located side by side allowing equal access (female/male, female/male) between one another for participants to approach with no direction or recommendations. They were to choose whomever they wanted.

In a 3 day period, a total of 506 participants filled out surveys, 343 females and 163 males. A grid on distance (6in, 12in, 18in, 24in) with 24inches being the max and still at a comfortable state for respondents lied in front of associates where surveyors could not tell. This grid determined the space in which participants chose to come closer or further away from each associate.  Then two trained recorders/observers were 10 feet to the sides of each assistant making it look as if they were filling out a survey as well.

According to past investigation, this current study went to the other extreme from what was originally found. The current study found that 292 participants approach a male assistant and 214 approach the female assistant. The female participants chose to approach the male confederates more often than the female ones. So this means 206 female participants approached the male while 137 females approached the female. It also states that males did not show any fondness on approach. The second hypothesis was also rejected, finding that females approach male assistants much closer than that of a female assistant. So in this case, 96 female participants stood within six inches of the male and 71 females came within 12 inches. Then, the female respondents also waited in line 12 times to go to the male assistant rather than the female assistants whom were also available. Last and moreover, females chose to stand further from the female assistants, almost twice as many stood 18 inches or more from them.

The article compares to what we have learned by demonstrating that some measurement of space is always disclosed between complete strangers and sometimes can either be invasion of space or space that is desired. Either way it determines the communication between one another, in which some cases can be awkward and awesome in others. In the nonverbal communication book by Burgoon, Guerrero and Floyd (2009), I read that “women generally require less space than men” (p.160) which I believe to be true. I noticed an example in one of my classes that most girls sit legs together or crossed with all their belongings nearby, close and tight.  Boys sit with their legs open, slouched back in the tiny chairs we have and with their belongings all over the place.

As I read the article, I could not quite agree with the original findings that more people approach a female and invade their space because of level of status. When the current study revealed that more women approach men and at a closer distance, I thought to myself “yes” because this is what I do. After reading this last week, I started to notice who I approach first and do I come within a closer range. Had I been a participant, I would have been one of the 206 that approached the male and one of the 71 females that came within 12inches of him.

Overall, this was an interesting research article over Proxemics in gender. I enjoyed reading it and it gave me a broader idea on personal space between females and males and what it can sometimes mean, it being required, desired, and uncomfortable at times. That space is determined by many behaviors and mostly influences how we can interact with one another.


Madden, S. J. (1999). Proxemics and Gender: Where’s the Spatial Gap?. North Dakota Journal Of

Speech & Theatre, 1241-46.

Burgoon, J. K., Guerrero, L. K., Floyd, K. (2009). Nonverbal Communication. New York: Allyn & Bacon.

A Businessman shouting at a business woman in the office at her desk. Image shot 2008. Exact date unknown.proximity 3


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