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Lecture 15

PSYC 3430 Lecture Notes - Lecture 15: Behavior Settings, Attention Restoration Theory, Proxemics

Course Code
PSYC 3430
Peter Thompson

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Groups in Context
Groups exist in any number of distinct physical locations: from classrooms, museums, factories
and boardrooms to coal mines, battlefields, and even space capsules. The physical qualities of
these places—temperature, type of lighting, furniture arrangements, noise—substantially
influence group dynamics, but so do the social features of the setting. This chapter reviews
these processes, focusing on places, spaces, and location (territories).
Learning Objectives
15.1. Use the concept of ambience to differentiate between satisfying and stimulating/overstimulating
group environments.
15.2. Explain the impact of the following characteristics of the physical environment on group
dynamics: temperature (too warm or too cold), noise, ambience, and threat (danger).
15.3. Use Van De Vliert’s climate-economic theory to explain the economic systems and cultural
tendencies of world cultures.
15.4. Explain why some groups succeed, but others fail, in extreme and unusual environments.
15.5. List, and give examples of, the five zones of interpersonal distance.
15.6. Summarize differences in personal space needs related to sex, status, and culture.
15.7. Summarize the equilibrium model of communication and apply it to a two-person, mixed sex
discussion group.
15.8. Compare and contrast density and crowding.
15.9. Integrate Freedman’s density-intensity of model of crowding with a general attributional analysis
of reactions to high density settings.
15.10. Compare sociopetal and sociofugal spaces and review the impact of such spaces on group
communication in mixed sex, cooperative and competing, groups.
15.11. Draw on studies of the Steinzor effect and the head-of-the-table effect to draw conclusions about
influence and seating location in group meetings.
15.12. Give examples of the three types of territories identified by Altman (1975).
15.13. Describe the essential features of online and offline third places.
15.14. Explain when playing on one’s home field is an advantage and when it is a disadvantage.
15.15. Summarize the impact of territorial processes on such group processes as intergroup conflict,
member adjustment, status, and group performance.
15.16. Drawing on evidence reported by researchers (Hansen & Altman, 1976; Vinsel et al., 1980),
discuss the protective, personalizing, and privacy maintaining functions of territorial markers.
15.17. Generalize the results obtained by Baum and Valins (1977) in their study of territoriality in
dormitories to college students’ adjustment to dorm living.
15.18. Compare and contrast personal space, group space, and territoriality.
15.19. Describe the relationship between territory and adjustment to extreme and unusual environments.
15.20. List the key features of a behavior setting.
15.21. Summarize the assumptions of staffing theory and apply the theory to make predictions about the
efficiency of overstaffed and understaffed settings.
15.22. Describe the physical features of an ideal workspace for groups.
Chapter 15 199 Groups in Context

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Key Terms
attention restoration theory
behavior setting
density-intensity hypothesis
equilibrium model of
extreme and unusual
group space
head-of-the-table effect
home advantage
personal space
small group ecology
sociofugal spaces
sociopetal spaces
staffing theory
Steinzor effect
third places
Chapter 15 200 Groups in Context

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15-1. Group Synomorphy. After discussing several examples of well-known locations on campus that
lack synomorphy, ask students to find and describe a social situation where individuals’ interactions are
constrained by the physical environment. You can extend this activity by having the entire class observe a
series of behavior settings.
Assignment: The concept of synomorphy assumes that the shape and design of the environment where
group members interact inevitably shapes their dynamics: for better and for worse. Study synomorphy by
locating a complex behavior setting occupied by a group. You might want to observe a crowded place,
such as a high-density classroom, a fast-food restaurant, or an airport terminal. You could also consider a
cafeteria line, the check-out desk in the library, the entrance to a high-use building, or a busy street corner.
Just be certain that the place you observe is one that involves relatively complex interactions between the
individuals and the setting they occupy.
1. Describe, in detail, the place that you are observing. Give its general characteristics, including
2. Is the space available appropriate given the number of people present and their actions? Is
overcrowding a problem? Is understaffing a problem?
3. Consider the way people enter into and move in the space. For example, are the doorways and halls
sufficient to handle the flow of traffic? Is the area easy to reach from an outside location? Are the
stairs or aisles conveniently located and adequate? Is the space barrier-free?
4. Describe how the people in the space react to it. Did they seem to like it or dislike it? Did it seem to
be stressful for them? Did it influence the nature of their interactions?
5. Critique the space, concentrating on ambience and synomorphy: Does the form fit function? Does the
space fit the tasks to be accomplished? Is it too noisy, crowded, noisy, or ugly?
15-2. Territoriality. After presenting an analysis of your own office, ask students to fan out across the
campus and review other faculty’s offices. Most faculty will consent to a students’ polite request to
examine their office, if they provide an explanation that the review is for a class project on territoriality.
Assignment. Members of groups often develop a proprietary orientation toward specific areas of the
group’s space; for example, family members have their own rooms, faculty have their offices, and
students in classes often sit at the same desk week after week. Study the territories of a professor at a
university or a colleague where you work by first getting consent of the occupant. Then, spend about 15
minutes in the individuals’ territory, taking notes and sketching its layout. Consider the following aspects
of the space:
1. Whose territory did you observe? Give a thumbnail sketch of the individual’s personality, focusing on
introversion, achievement orientation, friendliness, emotionality, and intellectual prowess. What is the
status of the occupant?
2. How large is the space? What is the actual measurement of the room? Does it seem large enough, or
small and cluttered? What is your subjective appraisal of the size?
3. Where is the office located? Is it hidden away in an obscure part of the building, or in a high traffic
area? What other rooms/offices are located nearby?
4. What is the overall quality of the space? Is it clean, freshly painted, in need of repair, modern, etc.?
5. Diagram the way the furniture is arranged, paying attention to desk, chairs, windows, and doorway.
6. What sort of markings are in the office or near the office? Are grades posted nearby, is the room
marked with a name plate?
7. What types of territorial displays are present in the office itself (see Table 14-4)?
Entertainment or equipment (bicycles, skis, radios, tennis rackets)
Personal relations (pictures of friends, letters, drawings)
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