Have you ever attended a party then someone inches closer and started talking to you? Not to be overdramatic but it’s not just creepy, it can also make you feel uneasy.
Perhaps that person hasn’t heard of the concept of personal space or is quite comfortable with other people getting extremely near them.
For those who feel anxious and have the need to step back from an intruding individual or group, don’t feel bad about it, even if other people call you names because of it.
It turns out, we’re not being self-righteous nor a brat in how we feel toward these instances. There’s a logical and scientific explanation behind this – according to neuroscientist Michael Graziano, we create “buffer zones” to protect us.
These things have an impact on shaping the way we interact with other people and how we judge others, too. We must understand how these work so that we will know how to act whenever we are in that awkward situation.
Personal space always comes to mind whenever there’s someone we’re not comfortable with comes extremely close to us and causes us to squirm, but there are parts of the brain that constantly measures the space around you.
The first one, parietal cortex, is all about the sensory information, and the second, premotor cortex, involves movements.
The expert, who is also the author of The Spaces Between Us, noted that these regions are responsible for sending neurons that make us aware if someone is getting too close and are also in charge of how we react toward it, like squinting or simply distancing from the other person.
Role of the Brain
But does the brain really compute one’s personal space? We are not usually conscious about other movements we do on a daily basis but some things make use of our buffer zones.
For example, you eat without bumping the spoon on your nose, meaning you can aim it directly in your mouth because of the brain’s calculation and years of experience. In short, the sizing really helps us every day with simple tasks.
This is also the reason we cringe whenever we see another person’s “bubble wrap” invaded. We tend to crave for others’ protection, too.
The neuroscientist explained that we feel for other people because we imagine that that’s happening to us so the similar brain mechanisms are triggered, too.
Harvard Medical School associate professor Daphne Holt’s research showed that the cortexes are more active when someone moves closer to the body than the ones moving away, which is why it’s also necessary for our survival. Think about it: we immediately move away whenever we see something that’s going to hit us.
Four Types of Spaces
Intimate space is intended for loved ones, family, good friends, and boyfriends/girlfriends. This is the bubble that’s the closest to you and expands up to 18 inches from your body.
Personal space is for people you’re comfortable with, like acquaintances and friends, and extends up to 1 and a half to 4 feet from your body.
Social space is from 4 feet to 12 feet and where strangers fall under. The Public space is beyond 12 feet where your brain won’t activate the neurons.
There are other factors that can affect your bubble wrap. Studies have shown that those with anxiety and those who experienced trauma have larger space. Another research revealed that women are likely to protect the space beside them whereas men, in front of them.