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The sonic torsion of personal space

June 26, 2009

PS cover

I’ve been researching the career and writings of Robert Sommer, the polymath psychologist who gave us the durable concept of personal space. His book of the same name, published in 1969, presented research he had conducted and synthesized from outside sources across a wide array of disciplines, including sociology, communication, psychology, perception, criminal and carceral studies, education, animal behavior, architecture, and urban planning.

I’m hoping to publish more about this 40-year-old book elsewhere soon, but until then, I am reminded of how influential this book still is when I find recent research like this: via Mind Hacks, evidence that people listening to music through their headphones have a warped sense of their personal space. Impairment of spatial relations perception due to cellphone use while driving has been known for a few years, so this is no surprise. The research Dr. Sommer pioneered is ongoing.

(Thanks for the tip, Jenn!)

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