Haptics refers to touching behavior. Although used most frequent during greetings and departures, touching may occur in a variety of circumstances, including during a conversation. Some cultures place great emphasis on physical contact between people during a conversation, while people from societies in which touching is limited may feel uncomfortable.
While haptics can be hostile (kicking), more often, haptic behavior is used to indicate the degree of intimacy. Haptic behavior may be divided into the following degrees of intimacy:
The boundaries between the different levels of intimacy are somewhat fuzzy, even in one culture. However, across cultures, their boundaries may be completely different. Where different haptic standards are used, touching behavior may frequently cause irritation and misinterpretation of what is intended with the touch. For example, in many Arab countries, men frequently touch each other in public or walk arm-in-arm down. Such a behavior could easily imply an intimate sexual relationship between those two men in other cultures.
The way personal space is structured is referred to as proxemics. Personal space, or the distance from other persons, is a powerful concept. Research suggests it directly relates to our interpretation of the meaning of messages conveyed by the other person. For example, a person expressing anger is perceived as less threatening the further away that person is. However, if the person is close, the expression of anger becomes more threatening. In fact, physical closeness may itself be used to threaten the other person.
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