University of Sussex
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The social psychology of spatiality and crowding

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posted on 2023-06-07, 15:41 authored by David Novelli
This thesis applies self-categorization theory (SCT) to the behavioural and experiential dimensions of spatiality and crowding. A literature review in Chapter 2 will highlight the study of ‘personal space’ as a dominant theoretical approach to understanding variable crowding experiences. Several problems with the conceptualisation of ‘personal space’ will be discussed and in Chapter 3, SCT will be introduced as a theoretical framework, which can explain spatiality and crowding in terms of identity and group-level processes. Chapter 4 investigates the impact of group relations on spatiality. In study 1, participants in minimal groups sought closer proximity to an in-group member than to an out-group member. Study 2 used national categories as the basis for identification. Although non-significant, the findings mirrored those of study 1. Additionally, the relationship between perceived difference and physical distance was moderated by the group context of the interaction. Chapter 5 investigates the impact of group context and interaction distance on participants’ subjective experience. The hypothesised effect of these two independent variables on participants’ experience was not supported. However, participants in studies 3 and 4 expressed a desire for closer proximity to in-group members than to out-group members. Chapter 6 investigates the effect of visualised crowding on subjective affect. In study 5, participants who visualised an in-group crowd reported higher positive affect and lower negative affect than those who visualised an out-group crowd. In study 6, the relationship between imagined ‘crowding’ and affect was mediated by social identification. The relationship between physicality, social identity and ‘collective joy’ was quantified in a field study (study 7), which also provided suggestive evidence of physical synchrony increasing social identification. A laboratory study (study 8) supported the suggestion that synchronised movement can increase social identification, thus leading to a more positive experience of close proximity. These finding are discussed in terms of a two-way embodiment model of social identity processes in crowds.


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