Understanding the Link Between Spatial Distance and Social Distance

Justin L Matthews, Teenie Matlock

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review


Why do people use spatial language to describe social relationships? In particular, to what extent do they anchor their thoughts about friendship in terms of space? Three experiments used drawing and estimation tasks to further explore the conceptual structure of social distance using friendship as a manipulation. In all three experiments, participants read short narratives and then drew what they imagined happened during the narrative and estimated passing time. Overall, the results of these exploratory studies suggest that the conceptual structure of friendship is linked to thought about space in terms of path drawing. Results are discussed in light of social distance and intercharacter interaction.
Original languageAmerican English
JournalSocial Psychology
StatePublished - 2011


  • drawing
  • friendship
  • imagery
  • social distance
  • social relationships
  • spatial language
  • spatial reasoning


  • Social Psychology

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