Social and Physical Comfort in Two-person Object Transfer Tasks

Open Access
Robinson, Rachel Elise
Area of Honors:
Bachelor of Science
Document Type:
Thesis Supervisors:
  • David A. Rosenbaum, Thesis Supervisor
  • Cynthia Huang Pollock, Honors Advisor
  • joint-object manipulation
  • physical comfort
  • social comfort
  • personal space
An abundance of research has been dedicated to understanding human motor action and social behavioral norms separately, but little to no research looks at the interaction between them. In this study, I explored the interaction between physical comfort and social comfort during joint-object manipulation tasks. The goal of this study was to determine the effect of cooperation on the preference for physical comfort versus social comfort, and when that preference occurs. The participants (n=20) engaged in object manipulation tasks, first individual and then in 2-person pairs (Condition 1), transferring a PVC pipe through an obstacle from one side of the room to the other. Participants were presented with four obstacles, pertaining to four aperture sizes (Condition 2), in either increasing or decreasing order (Condition 3). I found a difference in comfort preference in the Solo and Joint conditions. Results revealed a high physical comfort preference when completing the task alone and an increase in social comfort preference when completing the task with another individual. In the Joint condition, preference was dependent on aperture size. I also found significance in zone preference, with an Individual-Zone aperture size preference in the Solo condition and an Intimate-Zone aperture size preference in the Joint condition. Results also revealed a slight hysteresis effect. My observations support the hypothesis that there is an interaction between physical comfort and social comfort during human-human cooperation. My findings suggest that preference for social comfort over physical comfort, or vice versa, can affect cooperation tasks such as joint-object manipulation.