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The Effect of Facial Disfigurement on the Proxemic Behavior of the General Public

Rumsey, Nichola; Bull, Ray; Gahagan, Denis


Ray Bull

Denis Gahagan


The personal space afforded to a disfigured or nondisfigured confederate by 450 pedestrians in a busy street was measured. In Condition 1, the confederate had a birthmark under the right eye (permanent disfigurement). In Condition 2, this was replaced by trauma scarring and bruising (temporary disfigurement). In the third condition, the confederate was “normal” (i.e., no disfigurement). It was found that subjects stood further away from the confederate in the disfigured conditions than in the no disfigurement condition. More specifically, pedestrians arriving first in each trial stood an average distance of 100 cms from the confederate in the birthmark condition, 78 cms in the trauma condition, and 56 cms when the confederate was not disfigured. In addition, subjects chose significantly more often to stand to the left (nondisfigured) side of the confederate in the birthmark and trauma conditions than they did in the normal condition. Those subjects who chose to stand on the right (disfigured) side of the confederate, stood further away from those subjects standing on the nondisfigured side. The implications of the results are discussed in terms of the possible psychological problems associated with facial disfigurement. Copyright © 1982, Wiley Blackwell. All rights reserved


Rumsey, N., Bull, R., & Gahagan, D. (1982). The Effect of Facial Disfigurement on the Proxemic Behavior of the General Public. Journal of Applied Social Psychology, 12(2), 137-150.

Journal Article Type Article
Publication Date Jan 1, 1982
Journal Journal of Applied Social Psychology
Print ISSN 0021-9029
Electronic ISSN 1559-1816
Publisher Wiley
Peer Reviewed Peer Reviewed
Volume 12
Issue 2
Pages 137-150
Keywords facial disfigurement, visible difference
Public URL
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