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Personal Space – How Big Is Your Bubble?

Flickr.com, Björn Söderqvist

Everyone likes to have their own ‘personal space’ — that buffer area between us and another person that we need to feel comfortable — but some are more extreme than others. How big is your bubble?

A professor of psychology and neuroscience at the California Institute of Technology says these “bubbles” are constructed and monitored by the amygdala, the brain region involved in fear, and they come in four basic sizes:

  • Intimate Space – Roughly 18 inches around us. Reserved for pets, close friends, and family members.
  • Personal Space – 1.5 feet to 4 feet. Friends and acquaintances are okay, strangers are not.
  • Social Space – 4 to 12 feet. This is for daily social interactions with acquaintances and strangers.
  • Public Space – Anything beyond 12 feet where anyone is welcome.

When our personal space bubbles are compromised by someone, we deal by avoiding eye contact and pretending those other people are inanimate.

I like a great deal of personal space, and when someone gets in too close it really agitates me. Brad is the same way, and neither of us are “huggers.” How big is your bubble?

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