One more pandemic change — need for more personal space 

Conditions surrounding the COVID-19 pandemic may have temporarily altered the neural mechanism monitoring and dictating personal space boundaries, The Wall Street Journal reported Feb. 27.

"In some ways, this might not be surprising given that people are practicing social distancing and have had understandable fears about the possibility of being infected with COVID-19," Daphne Holt, MD, PhD, an associate professor of psychiatry at Harvard Medical School told the Journal. "As your personal space is being intruded upon, you begin to feel increasingly uncomfortable." 

Dr. Holt led a study at Massachusetts General Hospital that found personal space requirements increased by 40 percent to 50 percent on average during the pandemic. Prior to the pandemic, personal space boundaries typically averaged between 2 feet and 3 feet, she told the Journal

Michael Graziano, a professor of neuroscience and psychology at Princeton University, told the Journal the neural mechanism that monitors space is activated by "anxiety and danger," and the need for personal space grows when we are presented with "fear and emotional challenges." 

Dr. Graziano told the Journal that individual variations of personal space will continue to create an imbalance throughout the pandemic.

"I don’t think this is permanent," Dr. Graziano told the Journal. "Personal space has grown during the pandemic and will come back down again as the pandemic fades."

 

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