Being in a Car Affects Our Sense of Personal Space

Psychologists have noted that people driving a motor car react in a manner that is often completely unlike their normal social behaviour as regards their territories. It seems that a motor vehicle sometimes has a magnifying effect on the size of a person’s personal space. In some cases, their territory is magnified by up to ten times the normal size, so the driver feels that he has a claim to an area of 9 to 10 metres in front of and behind his motor car. When another driver cuts in front of him, even if no danger is involved, the driver may go through a physiological change, becoming angry and even attacking the other driver. Compare this to the situation that occurs when the same man is stepping into a lift and another person steps in front of him, invading his personal territory. His reaction in those circumstances is normally apologetic and he allows the other man to go first; remarkably different from what happens when another driver cuts in front of him on the open road.

For some people, the car becomes a protective cocoon in which they can hide from the outside world. As they drive slowly beside the kerb, almost in the gutter, they can be as big a hazard on the road as the driver with the expanded personal space.


The car magnifies our personal space perception, making us angry when others violate it.

Folksonomies: perception personal space

/family and parenting/children (0.550630)
/society (0.516772)
/society/unrest and war (0.437573)

personal space (0.938190 (negative:-0.146835)), normal social behaviour (0.808730 (neutral:0.000000)), personal space perception (0.803811 (negative:-0.720383)), motor car react (0.785982 (neutral:0.000000)), driver cuts (0.770795 (negative:-0.502589)), physiological change (0.610960 (negative:-0.346963)), normal size (0.608573 (neutral:0.000000)), Space The car (0.605589 (negative:-0.720383)), protective cocoon (0.603715 (neutral:0.000000)), person steps (0.600852 (neutral:0.000000)), motor vehicle (0.600647 (positive:0.452118)), personal territory (0.592108 (negative:-0.474973)), open road (0.583212 (neutral:0.000000)), people (0.476901 (neutral:0.000000)), man (0.473565 (neutral:0.000000)), kerb (0.464566 (neutral:0.000000)), regards (0.455610 (neutral:0.000000)), metres (0.453227 (negative:-0.409419)), Psychologists (0.447993 (neutral:0.000000)), territories (0.446911 (neutral:0.000000)), manner (0.446319 (neutral:0.000000)), gutter (0.446268 (neutral:0.000000)), Sense (0.445513 (negative:-0.720383)), danger (0.445181 (negative:-0.301323)), circumstances (0.444274 (neutral:0.000000)), situation (0.442180 (neutral:0.000000)), claim (0.442060 (negative:-0.409419)), hazard (0.441193 (negative:-0.356094)), reaction (0.441029 (neutral:0.000000)), effect (0.440441 (positive:0.452118))

10 metres:Quantity (0.010000 (neutral:0.000000))

English-language films (0.972424): dbpedia
Automobile (0.960182): dbpedia | freebase | opencyc
Transport (0.818997): dbpedia | freebase | opencyc
Vehicle (0.788342): dbpedia | freebase | opencyc
Psychology (0.733236): dbpedia | freebase | opencyc
American films (0.702116): dbpedia
Truck (0.701264): dbpedia | freebase | opencyc
Walking (0.643100): dbpedia | freebase | opencyc

 The Definitive Book of Body Language
Books, Brochures, and Chapters>Book:  Pease, Barbara and Pease, Allan (2008-11-12), The Definitive Book of Body Language, Bantam, Retrieved on 2013-06-22
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  • Folksonomies: self-help