08/28/2013 12:42 pm ET

Personal Boundary: Peripersonal Space Influenced By Person's Anxiety, Study Finds


The idea of a "personal boundary" really is a thing -- and researchers might have figured out what it is, in terms of actual space, for most people.

The limit of "peripersonal space" is 20 to 40 centimeters (almost 8 inches to almost 16 inches) away from our faces, according to the research published in the Journal of Neuroscience, with the space being larger for people who tend to be more anxious.

The small study, conducted by researchers from University College London, included 15 people ages 20 to 37. Researchers tested the idea of peripersonal space by eliciting the study participants' "hand-blink reflexes." They did this by inducing an unconscious blinking in response to electrically stimulating a particular nerve in the hands of the study of participants.

Researchers applied the electrical stimulus to the hands of the study participants at 4 centimeters, 20 centimeters, 40 centimeters and 60 centimeters away from their faces. The idea is that the greater the hand-blink reflex, the greater the danger the study participant thought the electrical stimulus possessed. Therefore, researchers drew an association between experiencing a larger hand-blink reflex when the hand was held further away from the face, and having a larger peripersonal space.

They also examined how anxious each of the study participants were to find the relationship between peripersonal space and anxiety.

What do you think about the findings? Does 20 to 40 centimeters sound about right for a personal bubble, or is yours smaller/bigger? Tell us in the comments!

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