The Effect of Appearance on Judgments of Interpersonal Distance

The Effect of Appearance on Judgments of Interpersonal Distance



Connor Nicholas Kuntz


Presentation: 11:30-11:45, Kennedy Union Boll Theatre



This presentation will explore how we perceive the world and other people, and how our perception does not always match reality. Sensation is the process of collecting information about the world with our eyes, ears and other sensory organs. Our brains then process this information, and the result is our perception. It would be impossible to take in and process everything around us, so our brains select information to focus on and use shortcuts to make processing easier and quicker. This speedy, efficient processing allows us to quickly make sense of our surroundings and to interact with our world, but there are some downsides to using these shortcuts. For example, some mental shortcuts result in unavoidable and unconsciously biased ways of seeing the world around us. However, by understanding these biases, we can work to minimize their effects. My research used virtual reality environments and models of people to observe the effect of stereotypically threatening appearances on how we perceive the distance between ourselves and a person perceived as threatening. The hypothesis was that individuals who appeared more stereotypically threatening would appear closer than those less stereotypically threatening. While there was a significant difference in how threatening and non-threatening targets were perceived, our data found that more threatening targets were judged to be farther away than non-threatening targets on average. A possible explanation for this result is that seeing the threatening target as further is a signal to avoid approaching the target.

Publication Date


Project Designation

Honors Thesis

Primary Advisor

Benjamin R. Kunz

Primary Advisor's Department



Stander Symposium, College of Arts and Sciences

Institutional Learning Goals

Community; Critical Evaluation of Our Times; Diversity

The Effect of Appearance on Judgments of Interpersonal Distance