Post 40 -by Gautam Shah (Blog 10 in lecture series Space and Human Behaviour)


People discern their relationship with others in terms of distances or spaces between them. In other words, for individualization, certain quality of distancing from others is required. Distancing from others define the defensive and offensive capacity, which in a way create a mechanism for survival. It delineates the accessibility and interpersonal relationships.

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People discern their relationship in terms of spatial distance (https://www.flickr.com/photos/9361986079)

Distancing or isolating from the threatening, disturbing or overwhelming elements is a notion of Privacy. Contrary to this Intimacy, is a feeling of closeness or affinity between a person and another, or an object. Privacy and Intimacy, both, rely on the distance one creates or perceives from other beings and objects. If privacy is personal as well as group-based requirement, intimacy is an intra-personal affair. One can be intimate with another person or group of persons without the apparent need for privacy. For intimacy to flourish, many need privacy.


Intimacy is also a biological need, as it relies on compatibility, sexual needs, glandular secretions, social acceptability, etc. It is an attitude, mental conditioning or mental posture. Intimacy could be one-way feeling that is without reciprocal response. Intimacy is not always a function of physical proximity. One can feel close to a person who is long dead -an illusory presence or through notional links (clothes, odours, recorded sounds, etc.).

TV show host Jon Stewart being close to the guest for expressing Intimacy > Wikipedia image

Privacy and Intimacy rely on the distance as perceived in terms of space, intervening objects, physical reach and perceptibility. A person projects privacy and intimacy in different proportions, whereas the space facilitates various levels of physical closeness, isolation and insulation. For an individual the space that permits one to ‘distance’ from others is a private space. An intimate space, a private abode, is one where everything is under exclusive command and so safe, predictable and reassuring. Here the occupants and objects have intense relevance to each other.

The Discussion > ART by Harry Watrous (1857-1940)

Territoriality or ownership is a way of achieving desired level of privacy. For groups and individuals an exclusive control over a space involves creating and maintaining the privacy and intimacy, including aggressive actions for its defence. For the individual, territorial control provides security and identity, and is communicated through the personalization and definition of the space. For the group, territorial control, is the cause of their being an entity. For groups such spaces allow easy communication and recognition (without any aids or extra strain) and so are an intimate locale. In many cultures, the acceptable or inappropriate types of intimacies derive from a complex historical process.

Territoriality > Floating boat Vendors (https://pixabay.com/en/users/terimakasih0-64267/)

Meaning of intimacy varies from relationship to relationship, and within a given relationship. Intimacy has more to do with rituals of connection. Intimacy is both the ability and the choice to be close, loving, and vulnerable. Intimacy requires identity development. Intimacy can have two main forms: emotional intimacy and physical intimacy. There could be other forms of empathy like cultural, intellectual, spiritual, social that are akin to intimacy in some conditions. Strategic relationship developed to take advantage of anyone could be very close but it is a make-believe intimacy.

A crowded stair, elevators, metro carriages do not project an intimate atmosphere. A hand shake or hug nominally has no sexual meaning in many cultures. In some cultures’ privacy achieved by a veil is considered retardant of intimacy. Intimacy could be a display or an expression with physical touch but with no apparent mental feelings.


Privacy is a personal notion and is basically achieved by obscuring own self, or by isolating from people. One can obscure own self by merging with background or by becoming less perceptible. Isolation is achieved by barricading and distancing. A person or group achieves insulation through body posturing. By posturing one can adjust the exposure, control the communication, command the expression and re-calibrate the reach of the body as well as the sensorial perception. Privacy can help overcome many inhibitions through mental isolation. Psychological motivation helps one to ignore some of the side effects of lack of privacy.


Privacy provides the isolation, whereas degree of interference by others determines the nature of intimacy. Both are important means for individualization or branding of unique personality. In a space, primarily one tries to anchor to a spot where privacy and intimacy are controllable. And whenever these are compromised, one may try to adjust the posture, reorient, and distance from others.

One requires many different types of privacy. Privacy relates to sensorial faculties, physiological and psychological situations and circumstances.

Visual privacy addresses the tendency to avoid situations in which one can be watched incognito. It can be achieved through the use of furnishings, partitions or walls.

In a private space or an office, people will often orient their desk to face the door and sit with a protected backside in order to achieve a visual control. In restaurants, the first seats to be filled are usually those along the walls. In outdoor spaces, people tend to sit against or beside objects such as trees and bushes rather than in the open. In open office plans’ a person is made to sit facing a wall or partition for lesser distraction from the back side passage, however, it is the unseen and unpredictable traffic on the backside that challenges the privacy. Contrary to this in garment stitching room workers are one behind the others and passage is on the side.

Audio privacy is achieved by managing the acoustic shielding against being overheard, interference from background noise, and managing the unnecessary desire of listening someone else’s conversation. Audio privacy in a space results from shape and size of the space, quality of the barriers, partitions, furniture, objects, equipment, etc. Audio privacy significantly affects the level of communication, social interaction, and productivity.

Olfactory privacy relates to revelations of own physiological state or experiencing someone else’s such a state through hormones-odours. Other privacy parameters include the body temperature, breathing rate, heart beats, pulse rate, vibrations of the body, sweating and perspiration.

Physical privacy against someone making a close approach (touch or near approximations). These issues are generally managed by withdrawal, seclusion through distancing, part or complete occlusion, postural exposure and directional communication.

Art Gallery Crowds social distancing > Flickr Image (https://www.flickr.com/photos/burnaway/18305449185  > COOP1726.jpg

Social privacy is threatened when personal spaces and territoriality mechanisms function ineffectively. It results in excessive exposure. Social privacy is often equated to ‘crowding’ in a space. It reflects the degree of accessibility, a person or group offers to others. Crowding means heightened accessibility or reduced interaction depending on the need for expression, communication, physiological requirements. Crowding may be tolerated, if it is temporary and for a definite purpose like for fun. In ‘neighbourhood spaces’ one wants to be away from the enclosed interior space, and so here crowding of any type takes away the social privacy. The scale of a room, it’s size relative to the occupants’, also influences conversational distance.

Distancing is used for Privacy and Intimacy (Flickr Image by Tim Dorr (https:www.flickr.com/photos/timdorr/4092581313)

Distancing for privacy and intimacy

Distance also means the size of intervening space or affective extent of space. Edward T. Hall defines four distinct distances at which interpersonal transactions normally take place: Intimate, Personal, Social and Public.


Intimate distance and ranges from 0 to 450mm. Intimate area lies close to the body, within which intimate relationship occur, such as for embracing, kissing, touching or whispering. Here it is possible to have physical touch, non verbal communication and emotional interactions. To gain such an intimate position one needs to be familiar with the other person or coerce. Even in the intimate space close to the body, the nature and level of intimacy is affected by the attitudes of the persons involved. In case of objects such as tools and support systems are intimate. Here, due to the intimate relationship one senses the texture, temperature, moisture, vibrations, energy, etc. One has to be very sure that by using these no harm will occur.

Personal area > (https://pixabay.com/en/couple-date-fashion-happy-man-1845620/)

Personal Area is useful for interactions between good friends and family members and ranges 450mm to 1200mm. It is a zone of regulated and selective participation. This is an area where one can reach-out through projection (expression), channels of communication, physically (through body limbs) or stretch out with gadgets (walking sticks, stethoscopes, etc.). Here the intimacy is not a private affair, but regulated. One may need some screening barriers to achieve privacy. One can dwell in a culture or state formed of metaphysical elements (beliefs, customs, etc.), to achieve the same.

Zone of nearness > (https://www.flickr.com/photos/burnaway/15250875940/

Zone of nearness is a social field, for interactions between social acquaintances, and its range is from 1200mm to 3.5mt. The zone of nearness has variable depth, defined by the position and duration of the eye contact, sound pitch and language call, olfactory sensation and body heat perception. The time (duration) and space (distance), are used alternatively to compensate the other. This is a zone of participation without personal involvement. It is also called a non-committal area.

As per the protocol, leaders of the two nations never share a seat, but rather occupy separate seats distanced with a small table or flower vase. Similarly deputies accompanying their leaders, are made to sit at some distance, from where they get a sense of participation but have no chance of intervention. On public platforms one intentionally uses lower sound pitch to draw attention. On very large dining table one can effectively hold conversation with members sitting on the two sides, but not across the table. In gatherings one uses differing sound pitch to reach desired distance.


Reach Zones: These are not over the anthropometric ambit (above 3.5mt.), but if required one can ‘reach’ out. In reach zones, intimacy or privacy of personal nature are not available, yet one can announce it through metaphoric presentations. Reach zones usually have one consistent environment. Such zones are unitary spaces and so there is a sense of belonging, safety, security and personalized identity.

Extended zones: These are spaces like a street, neighbourhood, and such public areas. Here the ‘privacy’ is afforded by the familiarity of the surroundings and security of nearness. These areas have intimacy of the distance such as within the visible range, reach of shout or call, and the odour. These are part of the ‘home setting’. Such public areas foster non-intimate group behaviour. Mothers allow children to play in these spaces, as these are under surveillance.

Domain edge zones: It is a place for a sporadic encounter, which however could persist as a remembrance or experience. Frequent occurrences belie the consistency or permanency. It functions like a networked zone (web) where something relevant is always available. So no matter where a person arrives, it begins to manifest familiarity or is pregnant with possibilities.

Space forms and behaviour

Enclosing space forms (corners, cones, concave) force individuals to be closely spaced and be intimate enough to form a group. Some environmental and other effects are highly focussed (illuminated spots, under the fan area, sunny patch, breezy path), force a group to share the same zone and so breed intimacy. Virtual proximity Intimacy is also achieved by entering into some one’s private domain like home, a bedroom, toilet, study area. Homes and work places of great persons provide illusion of physical intimacy. Crowded spaces force intimacy of coexistence. The coexistence may force an individual to mentally barricade own-self or open-up. Eye contact could be both intimate and non-intimate. A direct eye contact allows better nonverbal communication (empathy), but a direct eye contact also subdues the other person and thus is less-intimate. Persons meeting in one to one setting are more intimate, than their encounter in public presence or a gaze.

Two persons or members of a group can talk in whispers and give out an impression of intimacy in spite of the apparent distance between them. Conversely talk-discussions in high pitch could be used to present bonhomie and thereby a close-knit entity. Politicians and celebrities talk in whispers to state things that need to be made public and talk loudly things that need not be public, both ways they draw the attention. A public orator changes the pitch from normal to very low or high to draw the attention of the audience and thereby register a point.

Hailing Call > ART by Daniel Ridgway Knight (1839-1924)

Hall (1959), has stipulated that spatial separation also serves an expansive function. He made a study of the spatial relations that seem appropriate to various kinds of interactions. These vary with intimacy, and depend on the possibility of eye contact. They vary with the culture. Distances through virtual communication technology mediated interactions are likely to be different.

One can easily distinguish strangers from friends in an airport lounge. Strangers will keep a distance, taking alternate seats wherever possible. Friends tend to form clots, and families even pile one on the top of another. Total strangers will comfortably seat themselves only inches apart if the seats are back to back, but friends and the members of the family never arrange themselves in this way. Eye contact invites interaction and so is sought to the degree that intimacy already exists. (Hall E. T. 1959, The silent language).

Very close distance (75 to 150mm) required for Soft whispers, top secret talks. Close distance (200 to 300mm) is used for Audible whispers, and very confidential talks. Near distance (300 to 500mm) if for Soft voice talks and show of confidential interactions. Neutral distance (500 to 900mm) Low volume voice and for non intimate but personal discussion. Impersonal distance (1300 to 1500mm) is for full voice, impersonal information. Public distance (1700 to 2500mm) is for gatherings, slightly over-loud voice and for information for others to hear. Across room (2500 to 6000mm) Loud voice, talking to a group. Hailing privately (6000 to 7500 mm) is an indoor activity like loud voice for departure areas. Hailing public (30.00 mts) is used for outdoors, loud voice shouting, departures and calls.


The need to be alone or be part of a group arises from factors like personal (psychological and physiological), intra-personal (communication, exchanges) and group behaviour mechanisms (sense of belonging, sharing, participation, confirmation). Being alone, could be a need, but Loneliness is an anxious feeling about a lack connectedness. It is experienced in absence or presence of people, and in known as well as unknown surroundings. The causes of loneliness are many, such as social, mental, emotional, physiological and spiritual.


Causes for Loneliness are: Loss of a relationship due to breakup, travel, death of a person, dejection or withdrawal from a social circle, enforced isolation like jail or punishment like over stay at school or workplace, unfamiliar lifestyle, food and community leading to home sickness, a dysfunction of communication channels at places with low population densities, during periods of harsh climates and fewer people to communicate with due to language, sex, social or other barriers.

Loneliness can be attributed to personal need, period, place and people. A person when isolated may feel lonely but to feeling of loneliness is not always due to isolation. Solitude could be by choice, and so loneliness is a subjective experience. People can be lonely in a crowded or public place, because a person may be desiring more intensive social interaction than what is currently available, or the surroundings are not suitable for such opportunities. A person can be in the middle of a party and feel lonely due to inability to participate in it. Contrary to this one can be alone and yet not feel lonely if there is no need or desire for social interaction.

Loneliness tends to depress some but improves the cognition and improves capacity to concentration. Study rooms, prayer or meditation zones, contemplation areas, private consultation rooms, lovers’ corners in restaurants, back seats in assembly halls are designed to be less participatory. Such places of solitude or temporary loneliness lead to enhanced and creative expression. Solitude is also associated with spiritual and religious quests.


For solitude, other then isolation from people, some control over cognition may be necessary. Complete absence of cognition or by totally filtering an aspect of it (such as sound, light, touch, smell, etc.) in a space creates an uncomfortable situation. Even in jails and study rooms some illumination, background noise, distant odours are desirable to maintain mental health. Loneliness should be considered as an alert that it is time to seek social connections. Connections of this nature, may not occur with presence of people, but rather by necessary adaptation of the living space.

piqsels.com-id-fkstd 1

Single people keep themselves occupied through intensive work regimen, audio and video intervention, mobile or other means of communication, by seating near a street view window, keeping a pet as company, frequent relocation of amenities, irregular work cycles including physical workouts, dancing, and cooking.


Russian space psychologists analyze the body language and tone of voice to ensure compatibility of crew members. Members of a group must have a strategy of a good working relationship. One may not be very friendly with a companion, but a clear understanding as to how much you are ready to share and not share, creates a healthy relationship. The Shuttle-Mir missions of the 1990s Russian and American crew had problems of language and other communications, leading to isolation.

Loneliness is going to be a major issue for long duration space travel with few crew members. For some persons the problem will not be loneliness but too much of the same company. The privacy of space may not be feasible, but of few exclusive moments will be appreciated. Direct communication will not be possible for space flights. A radio signal can take up to 22 minutes to travel to or from the Earth. Two-way instant conversations will be completely impossible, so email and social media communication is likely to become inevitable. Both of these allow a degree of selectivity that it is not always necessary to respond, and your behaviour is not being visually exposed. With (as of now) poor condition of communication channels, most voice messages are truncated in bandwidths creating a phantom like effect, but belying the emotions.

It is extremely important to maintain the emotional ties to the ground (or enliven the past). NASA on ground station involves fellow astronauts who understand what the space travellers are going through. Loneliness is now being tackled by counselors available on telephone and social media 24×7.

Loneliness is also an issue with elderly people, staying in Old-age homes, hospitals and alone. They need someone to talk and respond, visually see the company, and touch. A robot seal is designed to improve all such sensorial functions. Space travelers will perhaps have such robots.

This is the TENTH lecture in the series Space and Human Behaviour for Winter semester, 2017, at Faculty of Design, CEPT University, Ahmedabad, India.


9 – HUMAN BEHAVIOUR in Expression and Communication

Post 39 -by Gautam Shah (Blog 9 in lecture series Space and Human Behaviour)


A space is confirmed (altered) or designed for the purpose of a behavioural setting. One intuitively exploits and cognizes the current spatial assets and environmental provisions, and then consciously continues to modify it.

Confirmed Space for Behavioural setting > Flickr Image by filtran > https://www.flickr.com/photos/filtran/3231576929/

Behavioural responses for expression and communication use functional elements such as: tools, amenities, facilities and structures. The characteristic style of architecture and interior space configurations inspires many to express and communicate. The Environmental conditions like illumination, acoustics and comfort affect the nature of expression and thereby the communication. Expression and communication are personal processes and are in consideration of Physical characteristics of the participants such as age, sex, experience, body posture, mental adequacy and maturity, time and distance, nature of need, compulsions, disposition, etc.

Suraj kund crafts festival India > Wikipedia image by Cordavida

Behavioural expressions extensively use spatial-environmental features, architectonic elements, amenities and facilities. Expressions are aided by the contextual conditions like spatial form, shape, size, scale, environment and surface materials. Other aids include referencing through position, orientation, background vs foreground, angle and nature of perceptibility, degree of sufficiency for various body functions (reach capacity, comfort, metabolisms, etc.). These aids simplify, amplify, de-intensify, amalgamate, compact, quicken or retard the rate and contents of expression. In absence or dilution of these ‘effects’ the expression may not be very operative.

Unconscious Behaviour > Pixabay Image by nguyentuanhung > https:// pixabay.com/en/people-market-shopping-street-262886/

Human Behaviour, intentionally and automatically reflect the responses to internal or external events. The behavioural reactions to someone or something are in discrete or overt form. The responses are revealed through body positions, orientations, movements, postures, gestures, spatial distancing from other objects and beings, usage and avoidance of reach and support tools. The revelations of feelings occur even before one makes an effort to do so, and sometimes in spite of the conscious effort to suppress them. The exposition, must occur under certain protocol and situational conditions.

Body Language > Flickr Image by filtran > https://www.flickr.com/photos/filtran/ 2710638876

Behavioural responses are intentional or automatic. Intentional ones are rational borne out of reasoning, knowledge or purpose. Others are automatic, resulting from physiological processes such as injury, pain, pleasure, metabolisms etc. Both types of responses could be so subtle that the person expressing or the party perceiving it may not be aware of it. The responses could be also of short duration, insignificant, suppressed or concealed. Involuntary responses are reflexion of personal behaviour. ‘The behavioural responses expose the changes occurring in a human being and could also in turn influence the behaviour’.

Auto reaction behaviour > Flickr Image by Thomas Leuthard nju deli#12 > https://flickr.com/photos/thomaslethard/16324789904

Intentional behaviour has a purpose of informing, recording, recollecting, inciting, convincing, putting forth an argument, generating feedback, forcing, showing feelings, ideas, thoughts, opinions, re-experiencing, recollecting, abridgement, elaboration or re-enactment of a happening.

Unintentional behaviour > She is not with a mobile but unconsciously copies other person’s stance > Flickr image by Gideon > https://www.flickr.com/photos/malias/2613512932

Intentional behaviour is expressed effectively through the body’s movements, gestures and postures. Expression as an impromptu process is accompanied with use of learnt or improvised behaviour. Behavioural learning can manifest on recollection of the event any time later, and may be used for some other situation. When one is aware of being observed directly by another human being or a device, the expressions are masked, suppressed or reformatted. Such acts are also carried out by time-management, such as hastening or delaying the expression and by putting out diversionary behaviour.

Pixabay image > Legs > https://pixabay.com/en/legs-walking-walk-lims-motion-19759/

Expressions within a geographical-social-political area or community have some degree of commonality due to their progression to metaphoric vocabulary. Such forms become classical expressions due to very intense, frequent usage and abstractions. Classical forms become formal language for intentional and to some extent subconscious expressions. Behavioural expressions have become means of communication. Expressions used for communication are intentional. Expression for communication may be ‘unintentional’ that is not occur for any particular audience. Expressions for aesthetic satiation are always intentional. Expressions for aesthetic satiation occur through representative forms like singing, writing, art, craft, etc. The intent here is communication of an abstract content, either for personal satisfaction or an audience.

Flickr Image by Marko Kudjerski IMG_ 4968 > https://flickr.com/photos/marko8904/8230612385/

Behavioural responses communicate information. The ‘direct channel’ transmits information with some purpose. Direct channels are under control of the sender and receiver. Direct channels use both, verbal, and non verbal means. The ‘indirect channel’ transmits information that is not controlled by the sender, though perceived subliminally or subconsciously by the receiver. The indirect channels use the non verbal means such as the kinesics or body language. Here there may not be an explicit message, but inner emotions and feelings are involved. The receiver may call it a gut feeling, hunch, intuition, or premonition.

You got a mail > Flickr Image by Georgie Pauwels > https://www.flickr.com/photos/frosch50/10858946293

When behaviour is purposive, it allows a person to organize and rationalize the thoughts, record, recollect and rearrange the contents. It also allows one to emphasize and de-emphasize whole or parts of the content. Intentional expressions get improvised the moment a perceiver shows reactions. Though expression, communication and its perception may not happen in same time or space. Expressions for posterity are recorded as writing or image creation, broadcast through a device or recording on a media.

One may make an intentional expression by using body gestures and postures but additionally support it by other sensorial means like vocal and touch. Non-personal or absentia expressions through remote means like telephone, broadcasting or publications use various means of emphasis (or even diffusion) (repeat, highlight, placement, emphasis) to support the expressions. Like for example, speaking face to face or frontal-way is a very direct but can be diffused by slightly off-centric or angular dealing. Similarly a superior delivery position, a static and clear background, appropriate lighting, clothes, etc. reinforce it.

Wikipedia Image

Non verbal Communications

Non verbal communications include postural, gestural and other (endocrines) features: like: facial expressions, eye contact, controllable body movements, metaphoric associations, sounds, odours etc. It also occurs through objects and metaphors, like: clothes, hairdos, architecture, interior, furniture, furnishings, arts, crafts, colour combinations, lighting ambience, signs, symbols, graphics, typography, etc.

Non verbal communication during the interaction operates in the Following contexts. Surroundings like: furniture, architectural styling, interior decoration, amenities, illumination, acoustics, and temperature. Physical characteristics of the communicators such as the age and sex differences, experiences, body posture, mental adequacy and maturity, time and distance as available, nature of need, inclinations, etc., and the behaviours of communicators. Behaviour of the communicators during the interactions, like: transaction to be one way or two-way, communication to be one to one or one to many, the use of feed-forward and feedback mechanisms, etc.


Dance is a metaphoric form of nonverbal communication. It can be abstract form of a self-expression or a very formal vocabulary of movements, steps, postures, mudras, gestures additionally supported by musical rhythm or Tal-beats. All these can become so abstract that there is ambiguity and personal meaning.

Afghanistan Afghan Discussion Talks Communication
Afghans Talk > http://maxpixel.freegreatpicture.com/Afghanistan-Afghan-Discussion-Talks-Communication-887775
Group behaviour in traditional Madagascar society is more of non verbal communication > Pixino.com free images

Verbal communication

Verbal communications use spoken-words or language, and also written and other textual forms of expressions. Verbal expression is substantially coloured by para-language and prosodic features, like the voice quality, rhythm, metre, intonation, stress, pause, emotion and speaking style. Textual expressions have elements such as presentation style of handwriting, graphics, typography or calligraphy.

This is the NINTH lecture in the series Space and Human Behaviour for Winter semester, 2017, at Faculty of Design, CEPT University, Ahmedabad, India.



Post 38 –by Gautam Shah (Blog 8 in lecture series Space and Human Behaviour)


Human behaviour is seen in many different forms. Responses occurring due to a trigger or need, are intentional, whereas biological reactions are voluntary. Human behaviour is seen as macro or micro changes. Such changes are very explicit, but others are realized on their recurrence. Human behaviour can be simply defined as a different conduct when faced with a specific situation or a consequential action.

Plato and Aristotle, School of Athens, ART by Raphael (1483-1520)

Behaviour of a person depends on the level of adjustments, adoption, comfort, need for change, nature of interpersonal relationships and degree of exchanges with the space-environment settings. It is also conditioned by the culture and geopolitical surroundings. Behaviour can project different meanings to different people.

Pixels image > Two children

For a space designer, the study of behaviour in offers clues as to how a person will respond to a given space-environment setting. The two-way exchange between the space-environment and a person or group are so rapid that is not possible to separate cause and effects.

Rossio, Lisbon, Portugal, African Immigrants > Image by Ribeiro Simoes

A space-environment setting is an ever-changing enigma. A space characteristically static, seem to vary due to the environment. The space-environment concurrence poses an ever evolving relevance to the habitants.

Behaviour in Space is checked for:

  1.  Lone Inhabitant
  2. individuals within a group,
  3.  Group-based behaviour.

Behaviour of a lone inhabitant of a space depends on personal factors like pre existing psychological conditions, physiological make up, nature of the space+environment setting, experience, sequencing, personality build-up, cultural background and the task being handled. The behaviour also reflects the social responses as seen from habits, routines, customs, taboos, etc. Behaviour of a lone occupant is often in consideration of other absentee human beings.

Waiting alone > Flickr Image by Pedro Ribeiro Simoes Lisbon Portugal

● Behaviour of individual within a group is formed by the person’s own-self or, through personal factors like degree of social familiarity, commonality of purpose (affinity-kinship), similarity of age, sex, physical features, notions of intimacy and privacy. It is also moulded by the personal comfort (adaptation or acclimatization), familiarity of space and the environment make up, the duration of space occupation and degree of inhabitation, sequence of experiences, the capacity, means and opportunities of expression, etc.

Talking in Kitchen Pandang > Flickr Image

Group based behaviour is generated for many complex factors. It is also accumulation of individualistic behaviours, affective as a set of affinities of a loner, or rebellious mass hysteria. Group based behaviour in context of different persons is unique. Here the space and environmental settings (sharing the same domain) remain consistent, but other variants play an important role, such as distance of interaction, position (orientation -frontal, sideways, backside), familiarity, modes of expressions of behaviour (such as posture, gesture) and the ‘reach’ capacities of the participants. In a group the perception capacity of individuals depends on their need for participation. Smart or experienced individuals enhance their projection (and there by participation) by exploiting the features of space and environment. Audio-video means and other virtual reality modes can intensely simulate identical behaviour in individuals that are separated in space and time.

Old people playing cards in neighbourhood > Flickr Image Pedro Ribeiro Simoes


Parameters for Understanding Human Behaviour in Built Spaces

1. Shift in Space
2 Anchoring to a place
3. Change of Orientation
4. De-synchronized Movements of the Body limbs
5. Sequencing in space
6. Body Movements
7. Posturing
8. Aids for posturing
9. Open versus Closed body postures
10. Postural axises
11. Gestures
12. Eye level and its focus
13. Empathetic behaviour

A lone inhabitant, Individuals within a group, and Groups of people indicate their behaviour in following manners.

1. Shift in Space: One of the most perceived forms of behaviour is the shift in space. A shift in space is the change one cause in own-self, or the surroundings. The shift in space is made to gain a relief and to recast the relationship with the surroundings including other beings. One changes the body position and orientation frequently to re-calibrate the relationship with people and objects. Such shifts are subtle to more elaborate, like a change of posture to new place. From the moment of arrival into a space one starts a search for location, a place to confront objects and other beings in the space. The process reflects the attitude of a person through the gait, speed, clarity of the purpose, postural and gestural changes, etc. One can perceive and schematize the approach by promotive as well as hindering means.

Waiting Architecture Tate Building Shadows People
Anchoring to a place > waiting in architecture of Tate Buildings’ shadows and people > Mex Pixel Image

2 Anchoring to a place: In a space one needs to attach or belong to a place. One first shifts the location and orientation on entering a new space or when behaviour must be recast. By repositioning one vitalizes the relationships with objects and other beings. A strategy of behaviour is planned for objects and other beings who are already present, or their presence is envisaged. One needs a mark to position own self. The markings are found in spatial elements like a barrier, an edge, a differential in environment, a pattern, objects, amenities, facilities, nodes of services, other single human being or in groups. Other markings are metaphysical elements and metaphorical presences. A designer recognizes such entities, or implants them to make a space inhabitable or even hostile.


3. Change of Orientation: The primary shift occurs through change of orientation vis a vis an object, human being or a natural force (energy). The shift in orientation occurs by realigning the nodes of perception, such as turning nose towards or away from smell, view or ignore a sight, etc. It also occurs by being aware of a thing.

Korean village women folk in Hanbok > Flickr image by Caspian Blue

4. De-synchronized Movements of the Body limbs: Orientation of the body, of a limb like head and of the sensorial nodes like eyes, ears, nose, etc. are sometimes de-synchronized. One may talk to other, but avoid a square face to face position.

5. Sequencing in space: Behaviours in space are sequence of movements with planned or unplanned purposes, but all in consideration of other happenings. The unplanned sequences reflect improvisations for exploration, or compulsions of intense discomfort. A change in the expected sequence is divergent behaviour.


6. Body Movements: Body movements are of three types: parallel, against or towards the gravity. Of these, towards the gravity movements are passive, because these can be made without muscle activity. Movements are Active or Passive. Active movements are produced by own muscles to move a body’s part, whereas Passive movements are made by an outside force and without the participation or effort by the person. In both cases the distance, speed, and direction are important. Other passive movements are like the reverting positions, where a stretched muscle ‘relaxes’ to its normal position. The aid of tools amenities, facilities, structures, etc., are required for passive movements. Infirm and aged people rely on these when their own muscles become weak or are incapacitated. Physiotherapists use passive movements to regain the muscle power. Socially, any assistance for active movement hurts personal pride. Similarly physically disabled people do not prefer marked passive movement’s facilities for them.

Remaining engaged and anchored on the sidewalk of Times Square NY > Flickr image by Rosemarie Crisafi

7. Posturing: Postures are body positions that one adopts, voluntarily or unconsciously. These are to accommodate effects of gravity, exert the body for movement or resist it, to reach-out, withdraw or for exploiting the environmental effects. Posturing is using own body limbs and sensorial nodes in a coordinated manner, when alone, with another person, or groups of persons, objects in space, or environmental effects. Posturing requires change in the position and orientation of the body, relaxation, transition, exercise, activities, conducting tasks, communication and interaction. Postures indicate the current state or impending change in behaviour. One may reduce the degree of posturing or avoid frequent positioning by shifting the objects, reshaping the surroundings, changing the environment. One can also force recast of the sensorial connections through avoidance or engagement. Posturing occurs with and without the tools, amenities and facilities.

Le Moulin de la Galette > ART by Pierre Auguste Renoir (1841-1919)

Postures are multi limb positions, and so have many variations within a basic theme. The variations are also micro changes of the body that help tune in sensorial perceptions. Postures create empathetic and confirming images. Certain body positions, patterns and movements suggest specific emotions. Postures directly and abstractly convey the state of interpersonal relationships, social standing, personality traits such as confidence, submissiveness, and openness, current emotional state and temperament. Postures are also used for offensive and defensive and non-involvement purposes. Posturing helps one control incursion by others into the personal domain of behaviour, as much as it allows one to project a participating personality.

Two old men on a bench > Pixabay image by marybettiniblank San Francisco CA

8. Aids for posturing: A posture often requires support, aid, or simply a physical closeness (as an assurance) of tools, amenities, facilities and structural elements. Support structures may not be versatile enough to provide all the required proficiencies. Some degree of personal adjustments is required to achieve the intended purpose. To attain and continue the posture, one needs support from other means. Real supports are like: tools (walking sticks, shoes, etc.), amenities and facilities (architectonic elements, equipments, furniture, furnishings, etc.). Virtual supports are abstract: such as the required environmental conditions and psychological sureties that in need these are available in the vicinity.

The parable of the blind leading the blind > ART by Pieter Brueghel the elder (1526/1530-1569)

 A podium or a front desk is a very assuring platform for a speaker, but shields the expression through body language. A leader, on a higher platform, controls the assault from the audience, and thereby dominates. By standing against a wall one assures that intrusion from that side is blocked, but by occupying a corner one limits the escape routes. Sitting in an aisle seat (In comparison to a window seat) allows one the postural freedom, but makes one prone to disturbances. Front benchers have to be attentive. Occupying a geometrical centre or a spatial focus automatically enhances the interference.

9. Open versus Closed body postures: In multi limb postures body limbs such as hands, fingers, feet, head, etc. are variously used to cover vulnerable sections of the body. Open body posture is perceived as a friendly and positive attitude. Closed body posture obscures and protects limbs like throat, abdomen, genitals, etc. Showing the back of the hand or clenching hands into fists may represent a closed posture. Hands clasped behind the back give impression of hiding something or resistance to closer contact, mean a closed body posture. Closed body postures give the impression of detachment, disinterest, unpleasant feelings and hostility. Similarly clothing may also signal closed posture such as a buttoned suit, or a handbag or briefcase held in front of the person.

Open body posture > ART Jealousy and flirtation by Haynes King (1831-1904)
Closed body posture > Flickr Image by cturtle22

A chair with arms rests, railings, bus or railway hang-straps encourage open posture. A moving object like a bus will not allow closed body posture. A deep seat that allows stretching of legs and excludes the crossing of legs, supports the open posture. A stool seat (without back) allows one to lean forward as an open posture. Sitting on the side of a fairly wide chair, leaning too much on one of the armrest, sitting upright (without touching the back) in an easy chair, sleeping very straight in a bed, keeping hands in pockets of the garment, are some of the signs of closed body postures. A person with a higher position nominally takes a more relaxed posture that seems to be less challenging, often sits down to talk. Whereas a person with a lower position, often maintains balanced or formal posture by placing both hands on the lap or at the sides and may remain standing until asked to sit.

Multiplicity of postures, position and behavioural expressions > Congress of Berlin 13 July 1878 > ART by Anton von Werner (1843-1915)

10. Postural axises: Postures are axially balanced or skewed. Balanced postures are mirror-image (congruent) postures, such as equally posed two feet, two hands, etc., or are normal like the frontal face, upright torso, erect neck, straight eye level, etc. Skewed postures reflect a readiness to transfer to another posture, due to shift in interest or saturation of boredom. Both, the balanced and skewed postures, can be unstable and cannot be maintained for a very long period. Inclination of the body, or head, close-to or away from the opposite person during a conversation depends on the basic posture of the body. The action depends on the sex and age of the opposite person and the nature of the topic. An inclination towards the opposite person can be an expression of sympathy and acceptance, whereas moving or inclining away can show dislike, disapproval, or a desire to end the conversation.

Mime artists Jean and Brigitte Soubeyran in play the Circus > Wikipedia image by Ellen and Gilles > Wikipedia image by Ellen & Gilles Soubeyrand

An intense conversation with heavy gesticulation or posture changes can be subdued by adding to the distance between the parties. Deep seating or reclining elements and mirrors not only reduce gesticulation, postural changes but also intensity of conversation. In waiting rooms seats are distanced and do not face the receptionist. A TV monitor that shows the class or office space disciplines the users.

Italian Old Men on Benches > Pixabay image by marybettiniblank San Francisco CA

11. Gestures: Gestures are voluntary or involuntary micro articulations of the body limbs and sensorial nodes (such as eyes, lips, skin, etc.). These are for expressions, directional perception, metabolic functions and other physiological reactions. Gestures include small moves of the head, face, eyes and nose (winking, nodding, twitching of nose, or rolling of eyes) and hands. Gestures are used to supplement the communication, but could be, either dependent or independent on the speech. Speech-independent gestures have a direct verbal translation, though often very abstract. A wave hello or peace signs are examples of speech-independent gestures. Gestures such as dance Mudra represent very abstracted information that is relevant to a culture specific group.

Gestures by comedian Lewis Black > Wikipedia image

Gestures could be categorized into many types:

Emblems are gestures with direct verbal translations, such as a goodbye wave, thumbs-up, Namaste, shrugging of shoulder (don’t know), head-shake (negation), or head-nodding (affirmation).

Illustrators are gestures that depict what is said verbally, such as in story telling, turning an imaginary steering wheel or running.

Displays are gestures that convey intensity of emotions, like a smile, cry.

Regulators are gestures that support the interaction.

An adapter is a gesture that facilitates the release of bodily tension, such as yawning or leaving a breath.

12. Eye level and its focus are some of the most important means of behaviour exposition. One can increase the distance and help de-focus the ‘gaze’, by taking a side seat or stand or by seating behind a desk. Often the opponents are disadvantaged by offering an uncomfortable seat, a seat lower in height and placing them in a non-axial position. Opponents are discomforted by providing them a fixed position with little or no chance for sub-posturing, like very narrow space, unbalancing, scary or distracting position. One, as an opponent can correct such conditions: by sitting or standing upright, by aligning body and sensorial faculties in the same direction, by heavily gesticulating, and raising the voice.

Making faces, Empathetic behaviour, > Pixabay image MSneor Highland Park USA

13. Empathetic behaviour: During intense conversations participants have a tendency to imitate each other behaviour. They emulate postures and gestures. Such empathetic behaviour encourages deeper relationship, provided necessary support means are available. Correct distance, equalized ergonomic facilities, nonspecific environmental conditions are some such means.

Public Transport > Flickr Image by Ahmed Mahin Fayaz


This is the EIGHTH lecture in the series Space and Human Behaviour for Winter semester, 2017, at Faculty of Design, CEPT University, Ahmedabad, India.