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  Memes for Good Driving
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> Personal Space

Personal Space

While I was writing about communication via distance, it occurred to me that different people might interpret distances differently. For example, what seems like tailgating to a Sunday driver might seem like normal following distance to a commuter used to fast, dense traffic.

That thought reminds of something I once read, an example of different conventions of personal space. Unfortunately, I can't remember where I saw it I was sure it was in one of Deborah Tannen's books, since they're all about the idea of different conventions, but I couldn't find it there. So, here's another example of the same thing, from the book Manwatching.

Say a British diplomat meets an Italian or an Arab diplomat at an embassy function. They start talking in a friendly way, but soon the fingertips man begins to feel uneasy. Without knowing quite why, he starts to back away gently from his companion. The companion edges forward again. Each tries in this way to set up a Personal Space relationship that suits his own background.

It's interesting to me that the different conventions for following distance are driven by practical considerations. The different conventions for personal space have always seemed more or less arbitrary to me, but now I wonder whether they too might be driven by something.

* * *

Comparing commuters to Sunday drivers provides a good example of people having different normal following distances, but comparing urban drivers to rural drivers provides an even better one, one that is also much easier to observe.

 

  See Also

  Another Mnemonic Technique

@ November (2000)
o April (2002)