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Personal space and territoriality Essay

In psychology, the notion of personal space is mainly applied to humans, while the notion of territoriality traditionally belongs to animal psychology domain. Human personal space is also different from that of nonhumans. The concepts of territoriality and personal space are integrally linked to the modes of communication humans and nonhumans choose in their daily social and psychological interactions.

Although the concept of personal space is different across cultures, Cassidy (1997) refers to the four common personal space zones that are mostly similar across different cultures: intimate zone, personal zone, social zone, and public zone determine the specific communicational and behavioral patterns and require following specific social standards. Psychology professionals need objective understanding and evaluation of personal space cultural differences.

For example, Japanese people promote the importance of large personal space; in America, foreigners need time to psychologically adjust to the extremely narrow understanding of personal space that Americans use in their daily lives. Ultimately, the concept of personal space forms a unique psychological climate that is never common for all cultures. In many aspects, our territorial behavior is similar to that of animals: “territories are like elastic discs – the center is well defined and defended aggressively by the occupier, but further away from the center the intruder is dealt with far less aggressively” (Cassidy, 1997).

Like animals, we also display animal territorial habits; very often we tend to take the same seat in class; in public places, we use different means of marking our personal spots. However, as animal territorial behavior is determined by instincts and impulses, human personal space is heavily impacted by the complex set of social and psychological factors. Age and gender substantially change one’s perceptions about personal space; some cultures make people more sensitive to the boundaries of their personal space.

It would be appropriate to suggest that “although personal space area is not constant, it is a constant variable impacting the psyche” (Cassidy, 1997). Conformity and obedience Conformity and obedience form close relationship in psychology. Compliance is the general characteristic of the two concepts that links them to a complex system of group relations. Huffman (2005) provides extensive evaluation of how human psyche reacts to group pressures; conformity and obedience are referred to as the most frequent components of group interactions.

Conformity is a form of compliance where the individual is pressured by social factors and where compliance is driven by the fear of isolation, embarrassment or social anxiety. Sometimes, conformity can be voluntary, when we consciously choose to join a particular group of individuals. Conformity often turns into a form of compliance that is involuntary and is not fully conscious. When we are compelled to follow certain behavioral norms (for example, we should be polite with elder people), we do change our behavior, but we do not necessarily change our attitudes toward these people.

That is the essence of conformity: the behavioral change takes place without changing the attitude (Huffman, 2005). Obedience is very similar to conformity in that it represents another form of compliance, which involves the concept of authority and implies that the person is forced to follow commands. It is not rare that people are forced to step over their attitudes and morals to follow the rule of authority.

Conformity may turn into obedience, but as we seek conformity to become socially accepted and to be praised and recognized, obedience is the result of our natural desire to avoid punishment. Conformity and obedience are the two ends of the one social continuum, representing the two ultimate forms of compliance in human behavior. Through the cultural prism, conformity is a prevalent characteristic of collectivistic environments, while obedience is the necessary feature of authoritarian behavioral style.


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