Keeping your distance: attentional withdrawal in individuals who show physiological signs of social discomfort

Szpak, Ancret, Loetscher, Tobias, Churches, Owen, Thomas, Nicole A., Spence, Charles J., and Nicholls, Michael E.R. (2015) Keeping your distance: attentional withdrawal in individuals who show physiological signs of social discomfort. Neuropsychologia, 70. pp. 462-467.

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Abstract

Being in close social proximity to a stranger is generally perceived to be an uncomfortable experience, which most people seek to avoid. In circumstances where crowding is unavoidable, however, people may seek to withdraw their attention from the other person. This study examined whether social discomfort, as indexed by electrodermal activity, is related to a withdrawal of attention in 28 (m=8, f=20) university students. Students performed a radial line bisection task while alone or together with a stranger facing them. Physiological arousal was indexed by a wrist monitor, which recorded electrodermal activity. Correlational analyses showed that individuals who displayed physiological discomfort when together showed a withdrawal of the perceived midpoint of the line towards them (and away from the stranger). Conversely, individuals who showed no discomfort exhibited an expansion of the perceived midpoint away from them. We propose that participants shift their attention away from the stranger to increase interpersonal distance and reduce anxiety/arousal.

Item ID: 52449
Item Type: Article (Research - C1)
ISSN: 1873-3514
Keywords: social proximity; radial line bisection; spatial attention; crowding
Funders: Australian Research Council (ARC)
Projects and Grants: ARC discovery progect DP130100541
Date Deposited: 13 Jul 2018 05:42
FoR Codes: 17 PSYCHOLOGY AND COGNITIVE SCIENCES > 1701 Psychology > 170101 Biological Psychology (Neuropsychology, Psychopharmacology, Physiological Psychology) @ 50%
17 PSYCHOLOGY AND COGNITIVE SCIENCES > 1701 Psychology > 170112 Sensory Processes, Perception and Performance @ 50%
SEO Codes: 97 EXPANDING KNOWLEDGE > 970117 Expanding Knowledge in Psychology and Cognitive Sciences @ 100%
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