JNB Volume 1 Issue 2 Spring 1977

Schopler, John and Janet E. Stockdale 1977. An interference analysis of crowding. Journal of Nonverbal Behavior 1(2): 81-88.

The recent acceleration of research efforts aimed at discovering the behavioral consequences of being in crowded settings have failed to produce a coherent set of findigs. It is by now well known that the aversive consequences observed in colonies of animals living in conditions of high population density (e.g., Calhoun, 1962) are generally not detectable when humans are observed either in laboratory studies (e.g., Freedman, Klevansky, & Erlich, 1971; Ross, Layton, Erickson, & Schopler, 1973) or in demographic studies (e.g., Freedman, Heshka, & Levy, 1975). Instead, the consequences of high population density for human behavior appear to depend upon interactions with other variables, such as cultural traditions (Draper, 1973), interior architectural design (Desor, 1972; Valins & Baum, 1973), and sex of subject (Freedman, Levy, Buchanan, & Price, 1972; Ross, Layton, Erickson, & Schopler, 1973). These interactions completely undetermine the intuitive assumption, which has beet regularly verified by the animal research, that crowding stress is a monotonically increasing function of density. (Schopler & Stockdale 1977: 81)
Thus, Hall's omnious prediction that human overpopulation will lead to a behavioural sink hasn't been proven. It is much more likely that high population density will be overcome by cultural means - an equilibrium will be established in some way or other.
Crowding is then defined, for example, in terms of perceived inadequacy of space (Stokols, 1972), restrictions in behavioral choices (Proshansky, Ittelson, & Rivlin, 1972), excessive stimulation from social sources (Desor, 1972), excessive stimulation from familiar or inappropriate contacts (Esser, 1972), unwanted social interactions (Valins & Baum, 1973), interference and blocking (Sundstrom, 1975), or inability to attain desired levels of privacy (Altman, 1975). The present paper also attempts to subsume the interactive variables under a single variable - the "interference" created by the presence of others. An analysis of the role played by interference will redefine the stimulus conditions producing subjective crowding but, more importantly, it will outline the classes of variables capable of mediating the consequences of being in a crowded setting. (Schopler & Stockdale 1977: 82)
These terms are good to know. Valins & Baum's notion, especially, has become familiar due to three papers in the previous issue referring to it. This new single variable, interference, sounds like something I could get behind. [Interference = häire, vahelesegamine, interferents]
The experience of being crowded is typically connected with some aspect of population density. Density, however, is not an accurate predictor of the amount of stress experienced in a setting. It is our view that the central source of stress for individuals in dense settings is the perception that their own goal attainment will be interfered with by the presence of others. The presence of others is interfering whenever they restrict, disrupt, or block goal-oriented response sequences. The interference attributed to the presence of others determines crowding stress and is distinguished from other potential sources of frustration, such as task failure due to lacking requisite abilities. Crowding stress is created by actual or expected interference because it raises the costs of enacting behaviors. (Schopler & Stockdale 1977: 82)
Yup. I feel that a bar is too crowded not because of the amount of people actually there but because I can't get a comfortable seating, can't hold a decent conversation with my peers, and would have to wait too long in the line to get a drink.
Whereas both density and interference contribute to the subjective experience of being crowded, it is only the amount of interference that determines the degree of crowding stress. In the majority of circumstances interference and density will be highly correlated, but there are instances in low density settings where interference from others can be the sole determinant of crowding and crowding stress. The success of coping with interference problems, therefore, is the critical mediator between stress and behavioral consequences. (Schopler & Stockdale 1977: 83)
Again, I agree. A place can be "crowded" by there being a single person who causes interference and stress. In old westerns this is exemplified by two guys having a shoot-off at daybreak because "this town is too small for the two of us". Seeing an ex with whom you are not on good terms at the place you wan't to hang out will produce enough interference to consider going somewhere else.
Consider someone wishing to study the effects of crowding in university dormitory rooms designed for two-person occupancy. Density could be doubled either by holding room size constant and assigning four students to each room or by holding group size constant and halving the room size. Compared to the two roommates in the standard room, the dyad in the small room faces comparable circumstances, except that the average interpersonal distance between them will be smaller, and it will be of paramount importance to solve coordination problems. In contrast, the four-person group must cope with additional sources of strain. Theiraverage interpresonal distance is also small, but there are more of them and coordination is inherently more difficult and less amenable to satisfactory solution. (Schopler & Stockdale 1977: 83)
Again, spot on. Living in a two-person dormitory room is a challenge in itself. Even two can be too many. I lived with a calm old man for three years without significant confrontations but after he left and trying out a couple of odd new roommates I decided to go solo. Now I have significantly less stress in my life - no one will wake me up with their daily activities and I don't bother anyone by staying up too late. Living together with someone in a small room does pose "coordination problems". [My grandmother didn't get her university education because she couldn't handle living in one room with eleven other people.]
Furthermore, increasing numbers also produces increasing scarcity of "fixed" resources. Such scarcity, of course, is intended with respect to the resources of space, but it typically affects other resources as well. (Schopler & Stockdale 1977: 83)
Aside from the resource of space, the resource of time immediately comes to mind. This is related not only to sleeping schedules but also with "private time" - I consider solitude an invaluable resource - and time/space for receiving visitors. Another such odd resource is soundscape. This involves not only strepitation (e.g. not waking your roommate up by clanging with dishes) but also music - when and what to listen how loud, etc.
It is unlikely, however, that the number of doors, windows, sinks, or toilets would be doubled, and the interference stemming from access to these resources would be magnified. (Schopler & Stockdale 1977: 84)
At this juncture I would consider light a resource as well. Since I moved in first I could take up the window side of the room. My roommate lived in the "dark" side of the room, which made reading books during daytime uncomfortable. He also didn't have a view outside the window - and he sometimes enjoyed standing in front of the window and peering out, just as much as I do. I on the other hand didn't like the way he collected stools (that is, broken chairs without backs that he as a Russian also used as miniature tables when receiving visitors - in Russian language there is no differentiation between tables and chairs, both are stul) which didn't leave much room for maneuvering on his side of the room.
These dimensions are, of course, not independent, and the way that they combine to produce subjective crowding will depend upon particular setting characteristics. The contribution made by interference, for example, is determined by factors increasing the difficulties of coordinating and predicting the responses of others. These include the spatial arrangements in the setting, the availability of resources, and the structure of social relationships as well as such factors as the nature of the task to be performed. Tasks requiring complex behavioral responses or coordinated multistage solutions, compared to simple, single-stage tasks, should induce more interference from others. (Schopler & Stockdale 1977: 84)
Part of the stress caused by crowding certainly has to do with the relationships with those who cause interference.
The addition of pratitions to a fixed space lowers the perception of crowding when a miniature room test is used (Desor, 1972). Partitions serve to regulate a spatial behavior, but evidently they must appear functional to the actual users of the space to reduce crowding (Stokols, Smith, & Prostor, 1975). (Schopler & Stockdale 1977: 84)
With the last roommate I tried to live together I took this tactic. I partitioned the room into two distinct spaces with a large shelf. It did create personal spaces in which we could live independently but it also made the room feel much smaller than it actually is and the roommate felt negatively about it. He subsequently had the stroke of luck to acquire a room of his own down the corridor. We're still buddies because he's a nice guy, but living together in a cramped space was difficult.
The distanging of others, either by a change in spatial locations with respect to the members of a group or by decreasing facial regard (Ross, Layton, Erickson, & Schopler, 1973), may be seen as attempts on the part of the individual to reduce the impact of visual and interpersonal stimulation from others and in particular to minimize the major potential source of interference. The use of such startegies reflects the fact that participants in crowded settings do not merely passively react to stimuli but whenever possible are active in shaping their physical and social environments. (Schopler & Stockdale 1977: 84-85)
Partitioning the room with a shelf was such an attempt. I didn't get along with the next to last roommate, because the room was organized as an open space but it left him behind his laptop always facing in my direction. Not only was I constantly being monitored but he was constantly aware that I had taken the privileged window-side of the room and had the upper hand, so to say. The partition with the next roommate made us both feel equally cramped and the times that we did bridge our own little personal spaces were seen by both as special occasions, as unforced conversations. There was also more symmetry because both of us had our computers facing the wall.
According to the current view, interference will be experienced to the extent that the individual feels that the behavioral setting jeopardizes fulfillment of his expectations and goal attainment. One alternative open to the individual confronted by such perceived limitations is to lower his aspiration level for what is to be gained in a particular setting. This might take the form of lowering the level of expected achievement or of expanding the time frame for completion of required tasks or attainment of personal goals. The amount and severity of interference from others can also be mitigated by anything that structures and regulates the interaction of praticipants. (Schopler & Stockdale 1977: 85)
I decided to go solo so as to save myself from the stress of getting used to another person. I had grown accustomed to my first longtime roommate because we didn't bother each other much. There was a language barrier between us that made physical barriers unnecessary. As a nonverbalist I was quite okay living with someone who didn't speak my language well, neither I his. We took over some of each other's nonverbal habits, but there wasn't pressure for daily conversations. With co-national roommates I felt the pressure to reduce tension with conversations and being a lousy conversationalist, this caused more stress. It began "jeopardizing fulfillment of my expectations" to read and write in peace, with music playing constantly and without verbal chatter.
In contrast to the corridor design, the suite design may insulate its occupants from interference by fostering cohesive subgroups, characterized by high personal liking and a high sense of normative control. The specific hypotheses to be tested were that suite residents, compared to corridor residents, would feel more intimate with their roommates, have disclosed more personal information to their roommates, and would perceive having more normative control over interpersonal events in their part of the dormitory. (Schopler & Stockdale 1977: 85-86)
Yup. I have experienced this while living in a suite dormitory when I was younger. Our six-person complex with two rooms and three people per room was comfortable. We knew each other well enough to consider ourselves a group. We shared a bathroom and a toilet and there was indeed normative control of what was allowed and what wasn't. I get Valins and Baum's point, but it could be argued that a similar phenomenon occurs in a corridor but in a lesser degree. We may not all know each other by name, but seeing people in the corridor or in the kitchen time and again does produce a faint feeling of acquaintance - if not of each other's personalities then of each other's living habits. A "stranger" from the corridor on the same floor but on the other side of the building is immediately identified. That is, I wouldn't say that there is a complete lack of normative control, but just a lower sense of it.

Mehrabian, Albert 1977. A questionnaire measure of individual differences in stimulus screening and associated differences in arousability. Journal of Nonverbal Behavior 1(2): 89-103.

The rationale for the scale is presented in some detail because of the novelty of the concept of stimulus screening and because of the complex set of interrelated concepts and measures it represents. (Mehrabian 1977: 89)
Novelty? Didn't David Elkind write about "sensory gating" in 1971 in Nebraska Symposium on Motivation 19, where Mehrabian also published a paper?
The orienting reflex is said to be set off by novel, intense, unusual, complex, or unpredictable stimuli. Behrabian and Rusell (2974a) [sic] used information theory to show that all these qualities define a single dimension of "information rate" that subsumes the following aspects of stimulation: varied-redundant; complex-simple; novel-familiar; dense-sparse; surprising-usual; random-patterned; and moving-static - with the first adjective in each pair corresponding to higher information rate. (Mehrabian 1977: 90)
I do like the concept of orienting reflex, because I've experienced it first-hand. But I'm disappointed that Mehrabian was working with it. For me, he is the anti-hero of the study of nonverbal communication. He could churn out so many papers that said so much specific stuff but not anything in specific, if that makes sense.
"Arousability," then, may be defined as an individual difference dimension that subsumes the following intercorrelated qualities: the initial amplitude of the orienting reflek; number of trials for GSR habituation; various indexes of arousal response to increases in information rate of stimulation; and "weakness" of the nervous system. (Mehrabian 1977: 91)
I think I dislike Mehrabian because his texts are "inhuman". There are no people, just experimental subjects. His discourse is set in a psychometric echo chamber where various measures, means and matters float freely in seeming importance. There is little you can learn from him; you can only admire that this man is a Professor Emeritus of Psychology.
The lack of success with measures of characteristic (or average) arousal level led to the present emphasis on stimulus screening and its associated levels of arousability as the alternative and more relevant personality dimension in this area of study. (Mehrabian 1977: 92)
The reader obtained only weak, and not the expected moderately positive, relationship between the informational contents of current text and the arousability characteristics of the relevant stimuli in the given reading situation.
Schizophrenics exemplified a most extreme variety of low stimulus screening, as inferred from tehir response hierarchies. Although similar qualitatively to those of normals, their response hierarchies are flatter; that is, their responses to a situation are more equiprobable. Thus, their responses to a task or in a setting involve a mix of normal responses and sporadic intrusions of competing responses (Broen, 1968; Chapman & Chapman, 1973). In other words, irrelevant or less relevant cues are not as effectively screened by schizophrenics and are thus more likely to elicit (maladaptive) responses from such subjects than from normals. (Mehrabian 1977: 93)
Something similar could probably said about intoxicated people (as compared to "normals").
Furthermore, observable data on how subjects process most irrelevant cues would be lacking and could be inferred only indirectly from other verbal reports or tangentially related performance measures (e.g.: How would we assess a subject's wareness of, and response to, the textures of his clothing while he is in a conversation with another? Scoring nonverbal cues here would be extremely time consuming). (Mehrabian 1977: 95)
Then why on earth are you publishing this paper, written largely about your other paper, in a journal dedicated to the study of nonverbal behaviour? Whyyy? At this point I ragequit. I thought I could read every paper in this journal but obviously I'm not up to the task. DNF.

Kaplan, Kalman J. 1977. Structure and process in interpersonal "distancing". Journal of Nonverbal Behavior 1(2): 104-121.

What is important is that Hall's conception of psychoproxemics provides an integrating principle for proxemic (spatial), kinesic (nonverbal), paralinguistic, and linguistic (verbal) variables. Specifically, interpersonal "closeness" or approach is indicated by close physical proximity, direct body orientation, forwardness of body lean, and high amounts of touching, detectable body heat and odor, looking, and talking (especially in a loud voice and about intimate topics0. Interpersonal "remoteness," or avoidance, of course, is indicated by the opposite values on these modalities. It should be noted that, in his original paper, Hall (1963) seems to view soft speaking as the "close" end of the continuum. However, in a personal communication to Watson and Graves (1966), he suggested that the scoring be reversed as given - that is, loud speaking denoting closeness. (Kaplan 1977: 105)
In this sense intimacy is not signified by speaking softly but by feeling secure enough to talk loudly about personal topics.
The point of departure for a structural framework for interpersonal "distancing" derives from the traditional Smith, Lasswell, and Casey (1946) formula describing the communication and persuasion paradim: "Who (source) says what (message) to whom (recipients) through which medium (channel) with what effect (attitude change). (Kaplan 1977: 106)
I'm guessing that effect has to do with attitude change here because the title of Smith, Lasswell and Casey's book is Propaganda, communication and public opinion.
As stated, the above formula is unidirectional; one person (who) is the source of the message, the other (whom) the recipient. The interpersonal "distancing" paradigm, in contrast, is dyadic; the who and whom cycle over an interactive sequence. Furthermore, who may choose different whoms in different interactions. (Kaplan 1977: 106)
Similar consideration is necessary for reimagining Jakobson's unidirectional schema.
A sixth limitation of the communication and persuasion paradigm is that it has not satisfactorily examined the technological aspects of the medium or channel factor; studies often manipulate psychological aspects within a given channel. For interpersonal "distancing," the technological how is of germane theoretical importance, influencing what sensory modalities are operative in a given interaction and thus what enters into the circulation of the obtaining "distance" aggregate for each party. (Kaplan 1977: 111)
And I have my basis for conflating Jakobson's channel and Ruesch's medium.
Such an extension of equilibrium theory may be very valuable in clarifying concepts such as "social refractoriness" (cf. Calhoun, 1962a,b) and "information overload" (cf. Milgram, 1970). The concept of social refractoriness derives from research in comparative ethology. It is employed by Calhoun to explain certain aspects of behavior pathology emergent under moderate population density among a domesticated albino strain of Norway rats. A concise statement of this principle is offered by Stettner (Note 9):
Essentially, since there are so many animals in the same area, animals are usually interacting with an animal that has just had an interaction and is therefore socially refractory; interacting with a refractory animal is unsatisfactory and at the same time produces a refractory state so that a period of time must pass before the animal will be fully responsive and able to have a satisfactory interaction. However, since his social need is unsatisfied, this is a "false" refractory state and the animal keeps on interacting more and enjoying it less. ... As frequency of social interaction goes up past a certain point in animal populations, probability of encountering an animal in the refractory state goes up; therefore, probability of getting into a false refractory state increases. At extreme levels, animals are continuously interacting and continually remaining unsatisfied. (pp. 3, 4)
This phenomenon is quite amenable to an "intimacy-overload" explanation. An organism has tolerance for only so much interaction intimacy across partners; if one such interaction increases in intimacy, even unsatisfactorily, the others must decrease to maintain the equilibrium. (Kaplan 1977: 117)
Add this to the discussion of "getting peopled out".

Aiello, John R. 1977. A further look at equilibrium theory: Visual interaction as a function of interpersonal distance. Journal of Nonverbal Behavior 1(2): 122-140.

Argyle and Dean (1965) report that, for women as well as for men, the greater the distance between interactants, the greater the resulting looking behavior. These results are at variance with data reported by Aiello (1972). In contrast to the results reported by Argyle and Dean, Aiello finds that women look most at intermediate distances. Increasing the distance beyond this point decreases the amount of looking. Our previous results can be explained by a modified equilibrium model. We propose that eye contact functions to regulate the comfort of an interaction and is itself also a response to the degree of interaction comfort. This model posits that for women comfortable interaction distances promote eye contact, whereas uncomfortable distances diminish it. (Aiello 1977: 123)
This does make sense.
Close distances would be more negatively reacted to by men and far distances would be more negatively reacted to by women. (Aiello 1977: 124)
The expectation that subjects would look more when they listened than when they spoke is strongly supported in this study. This difference appears at all distances for both males and females. Exline and his associates (1965) consider the greater looking by listeners "a marked behavioral convention." We propose, however, that the "convention" has its roots in man's cognitive functioning and consequently in his regulation of interaction. Our hypothesis is that the more demanding cognitive task of creating a message, as opposed to listening to one, forces a speaker to reduce potentially distracting incoming stimuli so that he can produce an organized delivery. The speaker's reduced looking occurs in spite of the innately satisfying reward value of the looking behavior, the feedback available from the listener, or the affect-conveying potential of the speaker's direct gaze. As Cattell (1963) observes, the use of too many channels for input (as in the talkative individual) reduces the number of channels available for scanning (searching for new ideas). (Aiello 1977: 136-137)
At a conference of late, while posing questions in the audience, I deliberately diminished distractions by looking down and scanning for ideas while talking into the microphone.


Post a Comment