Social Distance Increases Perceived Physical Distance

Andrea Stevenson Won, Ketaki Shriram, Diana I. Tamir

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

21 Scopus citations


Proximity, or spatial closeness, can generate social closeness—the closer people are together, the more they interact, affiliate, and befriend one another. Mediated communication allows people to bridge spatial distance and can increase social closeness between conversational partners, even when they are separated by distance. However, mediated communication may not always make people feel closer together. Here, we test a hypothesis derived from construal theory, about one way in which mediated communication might increase spatial distance, by imposing social distance between two texting partners. In three studies, the social distance generated by a text conversation correlated with estimates of spatial distance. Conversations designed to generate social distance increased estimates of spatial distance. We discuss this relationship in light of the rise in computer-mediated communication.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)372-380
Number of pages9
JournalSocial Psychological and Personality Science
Issue number3
StatePublished - Apr 1 2018

All Science Journal Classification (ASJC) codes

  • Social Psychology
  • Clinical Psychology


  • computer-mediated communication
  • distance estimation
  • mobile devices
  • proximity
  • social distance
  • social distance can influence perceptions of spatial distance
  • social media


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