Personal space invasions in the lavatory: suggestive evidence for arousal

J Pers Soc Psychol. 1976 May;33(5):541-6. doi: 10.1037//0022-3514.33.5.541.


The hypothesis that personal space invasions produce arousal was investigated in a field experiment. A men's lavatory provided a setting where norms for privacy were salient, where personal space invasions could occur in the case of men urinating, where the opportunity for compensatory responses to invasion were minimal, and where proximity-induced arousal could be measured. Research on micturation indicates that social stressors inhibit relaxation of the external urethral sphincter, which would delay the onset of micturation, and that they increase intravesical pressure, which would shorten the duration of micturation once begun. Sixty lavatory users were randomly assigned to one of three levels of interpersonal distance and their micturation times were recorded. In a three-urinal lavatory, a confederate stood immediately adjacent to a subject, one urinal removed, or was absent. Paralleling the results of a correlational pilot study, close interpersonal distances increased the delay of onset and decreased the persistence of micturation. These findings provide objective evidence that personal space invasions produce physiological changes associated with arousal.

Publication types

  • Clinical Trial
  • Randomized Controlled Trial

MeSH terms

  • Arousal*
  • Humans
  • Male
  • Models, Psychological
  • Personal Space*
  • Spatial Behavior*
  • Toilet Facilities
  • Urination