Episode 16: Personal Space Invasion: What Happens When Someone Invades Your Personal Space?

MichaelEthics, Social Psychology7 Comments


Do feel slightly uncomfortable in the bathroom? How does the presence of others in the bathroom affect you? What about places other than the bathroom? How close is too close? A psychological study was done in 1976 in which psychology researchers hid in men’s bathrooms to observe…well, you’ll find out. Learn more about personal space in this episode of The Psych Files.



The article discussed in this episode:

Middlemist, R. D., Knowles, E. S. & Matter, C.F. (1976). Personal Space Invasions in the Lavatory: Suggestive Evidence for Arousal. Journal of Personality and Social Psychology, 33 (5), 541-546.


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7 Comments on “Episode 16: Personal Space Invasion: What Happens When Someone Invades Your Personal Space?”

  1. The independent variable is the presence or absence of a person at the adjacent urinal. The dependent is the amount of time (number of seconds) until the start of micturation (my guess).

  2. I don’t want to be gross but I have a different take on this theory.
    I think one of the reasons why you take longer to pee when someone is close to you is because you are afraid of farting if you let go of your control. As we all no doubt have experienced (I hope its not just me!), when you let your bladder go full tilt you can often fart as well (especially in the morning). I am always aware of this when there is someone near me at the urinal so I control the flow which has the side effect of it taking longer to come out.

    I have just started a course on social research and I believe this may be an example of an invisible mechanism?

    Love the podcasts by the way!

  3. Pingback: Personal Space | The Psych Files Podcast « The Purple Brain

  4. I don’t remember that line but I’ll take your word on it. I read the Hitchhiker’s Guide quite some time ago. Great book (bad movie though).

  5. My friends tend to call shy bladder syndrome “stage fright”.
    Regarding the term “micturition” I first came across it in the book “The Hitchhiker’s Guide to the Galaxy” where an example of Vogon poetry (the third worst poetry in the universe) is given as
    Oh freddled gruntbuggly, Thy micturations [sic]are to me As plurdled gabbleblotchits On a lurgid bee
    So Douglas Adams and psychologists have at least one thing in common.

  6. As a sufferer of paruresis myself I found it interesting to know that “normal” persons have some hesitancy and reduction of voiding under situations of reduced personal space.

    Not having any specific event or series of events that I can point to that may have lead to my condition I can only assume that it began as subtle self consciousness of the time taken to begin urinating.

    I would be interested to know if any of the 60 participants failed to void.

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