Keeping your friends close: perceived distance as a function of psychological closeness

Date of Award


Degree Name

M.A. in Psychology, General


Department of Psychology


Advisor: Benjamin R. Kunz


Traditionally, visual-spatial perception research has focused quite heavily on the visual information necessary to perceive the environment and the locations of objects within that space. Recent research has illustrated that non-visual factors like emotional states, motivations, and physical abilities can affect both perceptions and behaviors within the environment. Social factors may also impact the way we see the space around us. This research investigates whether psychological closeness affects perceived egocentric (self-to-target) distance, an important component of spatial perception. Across two experiments, participants made several estimates of the distance between themselves and another target" person. This target person represented either someone with whom the participant shared a relationship (his/her best friend), or a stranger (confederate Alex); I hypothesized that individuals' feelings of psychological closeness to their best friends would lead to judgments of closer visual-spatial proximity to visual representations of their friends than to visual representations of a stranger. Though participants did indeed report feeling significantly greater levels of psychological closeness to their best friends, there was no evidence that psychological closeness affected subsequent visual-spatial distance judgments in the form of verbal reports of distance (Experiment 1), visual matching of the distance (Experiment 2) or blindfolded walking to targets (Experiments 1 and 2). The contribution of these studies to the ongoing debate regarding the robustness and resilience of non-visual contributions to spatial cognition are discussed in the context of methodological limitations of the present studies and directions for future research in this area."


Space perception Psychological aspects, Space perception Social aspects, Intimacy (Psychology), Cognitive Psychology, Psychology, Social Psychology, Experimental Psychology, egocentric distance, distance perception, non-visual factors, social factors, visual-spatial perception

Rights Statement

Copyright © 2017, author