Modulation of Interpersonal space by emotional processing

The concept of interpersonal space is a part of a research field called proxemics that examines the human use of space and the effect of behavior, communication and social interaction. In this project we want to investigate the effect of the ability to process emotions on interpersonal space and corresponding brain correlates. Interpersonal space can be influenced by various factors including emotional context . Ruggiero and colleagues (2016) could show an effect of facial expression on interpersonal space, namely that participants tend to keep a larger distance to people with an angry face expression in contrast to a happy face expression. The effect of face expressions on interpersonal distance was also investigated by Welsch and colleagues (2018), who used a self report questionnaire to separate their student sample into groups with high vs. low level of psychopathy. The results of Welsch and colleagues suggest that regulation of interpersonal distance as a function of facial expression of the approached is impaired in psychopathy, although psychopathic individuals know how to regulate proper interpersonal distance in a dyad. In this project we investigate the modulation of interpersonal space and the corresponding brain correlates (EEG) as a function of the ability to process emotions, as this is reflected in the psychopathic scale. The project is carried out using Virtual Reality.

Project Team


Dr. Georgios Michalareas

Prof. David Poeppel

Johannes Gutenberg University Mainz (JGU)

Claudia Lehr 
Master Student in Psychology, Department of General Experimental Psychology (Co-supervised by Prof. Hecht and Prof. Poeppel)

Univ.-Prof. Dr. Heiko Hecht 
Department of General Experimental Psychology