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Welsch, Robin; Hecht, Heiko; Chuang, Lewis; Castell, Christoph von (2020): Interpersonal Distance in the SARS-CoV-2 Crisis. In: Human Factors, Vol. 62, No. 7, 0018720820956858: pp. 1095-1101
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Background: Mandatory rules for social distancing to curb the SARS-CoV-2 pandemic require individuals to maintain a critical interpersonal distance above 1.5 m. However, this contradicts our natural preference, which is closer to 1 m for non-intimate encounters, for example, when asking a stranger for directions. Objective: This review addresses how humans typically regulate interpersonal distances, in order to highlight the challenges of enforcing atypically large interpersonal distances. Method To understand the challenges posed by social distancing requirements, we integrate relevant contributions from visual perception, social perception, and human factors. Results: To date, research on preferred interpersonal distances suggests that social distancing could induce discomfort, heighten arousal, and decrease social signaling in the short term. While the protracted effects of social distancing are unclear, we propose hypotheses on the mid- to long-term consequences of violating preferred norms of interpersonal distances. Conclusion We suggest that enforcing a physical distance of 1.5-2 m presents a serious challenge to behavioral norms. Application We address how notifications, architectural design, and visualizations could be effectively applied to promote interpersonal distance requirements.