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Room to Move: On Spatial Constraints and Self-Disclosure During
Intimate Conversations
Vanessa Okken, Thomas van Rompay and Ad Pruyn
Environment and Behavior 2013 45: 737 originally published online 9 May 2012
DOI: 10.1177/0013916512444780
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Article

Room to Move:  On Spatial
Constraints and SelfDisclosure During
Intimate Conversations

Environment and Behavior
45(6) 737­–760
© 2012 SAGE Publications
Reprints and permissions:
sagepub.com/journalsPermissions.nav
DOI: 10.1177/0013916512444780
eab.sagepub.com

Vanessa Okken1,Thomas van Rompay1,
and Ad Pruyn1

Abstract
The tendency to disclose information is affected by several factors, including
the environment in which a conversation takes place. The study reported
investigates the effect of spaciousness impressions on self-disclosure during
interviews on intimate lifestyle-related topics comprising substance intake,
sexuality, and emotions.To influence perceived spaciousness, desk size (interpersonal space) and room size (architectural space) were manipulated. The
results show that room size in particular affects self-disclosing behavior with
increases in architectural space positively affecting self-disclosure. However,
the effects obtained varied considerably across the different topics, and decreases in interpersonal space hampered self-disclosure on sexuality-related
topics. Furthermore, nonverbal measures revealed that readjustments of
posture, interpersonal distancing, and refrains from establishing eye contact
are used to counteract space intrusions.
Keywords
environmental design, architecture, spaciousness, self-disclosure, affective
experience

1

University of Twente, Netherlands

Corresponding Author:
Vanessa Okken, Department of Marketing Communication and Consumer Psychology,
University of Twente, Cubicus C208, P.O. Box 217, 7500 AE Enschede, Netherlands.
Email: v.s.okken@utwente.nl

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Howell & Conway. relationship type. potentially embarrassing topics such as personal fears. Generally. clients or patients may be asked to provide information on lifestyle. and familiarity positively influence disclosure (Chaikin & Derlega. patients usually take the initiative to seek help. and person characteristics. 2000. Derlega.738 Environment and Behavior 45(6) Sharing personal information is essential to the development and maintenance of personal and professional relationships. information that enables caregivers to make an accurate diagnosis of the problems involved (Cegala. conversation characteristics may also facilitate or hinder self-disclosure. and hence. 1973. 1981. 1975. Chelune. although with respect to the former. (2008) showed that self-disclosure decreases with increasing sensitivity of the personal Downloaded from eab. self-disclosure is more troublesome during conversations reflecting personal. 2011. many nonetheless find it embarrassing or troublesome to share their problems with a “stranger. Hinson & Swanson. 1997. 2006. Gade. 1977) is likewise essential to communication processes taking place in many service settings in which input from clients or patients is crucial to service providers. or strangers. Roback. 1974. For instance. Forgas.com at Alexandru Ioan Cuza on January 5. 2004). Rotter. In these settings. Apart from varying with mood. Joinson et al. Whether it involves communication between friends. 1994). As such. Buchanan. 1992). intimate. recipient characteristics such as gender. In addition. self-disclosure (i..sagepub. As for interpersonal feelings or emotions: trust.” turning self-disclosure into a negatively laden experience. & McClure. & Gabel. and status influence self-disclosure. self-disclosure not only makes relationships interesting and engaging. with disclosure more easily taking place toward women and between people of the same age and status (Chaikin & Derlega. and physical or psychological problems. it has been shown that the discloser’s state of mind influences the likelihood of sharing personal information (Cunningham. Collins & Miller. 1974. Mathews. results of a meta-analysis indicate that sex differences in selfdisclosure are smaller than expected (Dindia & Allen.e. Ignatius & Kokkonen. Although in such cases. & Morrow. 1993). 1980. and sexual behaviors (Altman & Taylor. age. Collins & Miller. Steinberg. emotions. as is the case in counseling and health care settings (Cohen & Schwartz. For instance. Lenzmeier Broz. & Grev. Paine. self-incriminating information. 1994. Research shows that self-disclosure varies with person and conversation-related factors. 2007). Joinson. Strassberg. colleagues. Omarzu. liking. 2014 . 1990. 2008). 1980). & Reips. but it also provides communication partners with the necessary information required to respond to each other’s needs. with a positive mood increasing the disclosure tendency. the process of communicating personal information to another person. D’Antonio. medical history. Cappella.

another line of self-disclosure research hints at the importance of experienced spaciousness for stimulating self-disclosure (Okken. various studies indicate that creating more comfortable or pleasurable environments (e. a study by Sundstrom (1975). 2002). perceptions of feeling free or confined) may be triggered by environmental factors pertaining to positioning of Downloaded from eab. & Schoen.. 1977. (2012) showed that increases in room size positively affect self-disclosure intentions and the affective experience. 1970. arguably because such environments make individuals feel comfortable and at ease (Chaikin. Okken et al. Results of their study showed that when the physical distance between experimenter and participant decreases. Kahn. information involved. & Miller. Jourard and Friedman (1970) studied the effects of interpersonal distance during interviews. 1981. Lecomte. the environment in which conversations take place can also facilitate or hinder disclosure. Miwa & Hanyu. it is an open question whether actual (as opposed to intended) self-disclosure is sensitive to spatial constraints. Furthermore. 2007. 1976. Eberle. addressing the effect of room size on stress and self-disclosure. Ignatius & Kokkonen. Therefore. this study investigates effects of spaciousness impressions on actual disclosing behaviors and participants’ affective experiences during interviews on a variety of lifestyle-related topics. Gifford. 1978). 1975). Sundstrom. These findings indicate that spatial aspects of an environment influence disclosing behavior. so does the extent of self-disclosure. Bernstein. Sundstrom.e. 1997. through lighting) stimulates self-disclosure. and they suggest that spaciousness impressions (i.sagepub. effects of spatial factors may vary across topics. 2014 . Cohen & Schwartz. 1973.. 1988. Finally. Lamb.739 Okken et al.com at Alexandru Ioan Cuza on January 5. Derlega. Champion. 1975). Although research shows that self-reported self-disclosure tendencies can predict actual disclosing behavior (Halpern. with some topics “requiring” more space to unfold than others. 2012. showed that limited space may induce crowding perceptions and as a result may decrease communicative behaviors. suggesting that individuals may seek equilibrium in terms of disclosure toward one another (Cozby. For instance.. Morton. For instance. van Rompay. Jourard & Friedman. Spaciousness and Self-Disclosure Long-standing research findings testify to the importance of the physical environment for self-disclosure (Chaikin et al. In addition to such well-established influences. & Dumont. For instance. self-disclosure may increase to reciprocate disclosure by the conversation partner. 1976.g. & Pruyn. 2006). Of particular relevance to the current undertaking.

com at Alexandru Ioan Cuza on January 5. A central assumption underlying current research holds that spatial constraints in counseling or health settings likewise generate a freedom-seeking tendency and. in turn leading to a refusal to disclose information. a refusal to comply with behavioral norms (e. and by architectural dimensions (i. 2007) also testifies to the beneficial effects of experienced spaciousness. in western societies viewed as an act/expression of freedom). 2010). thereby generating more self-disclosure. In sum.. Meyers-Levy and Zhu (2007) showed that a high. ceiling (also increasing spaciousness) may activate feelings of freedom.e.g.g. Their results show that room size and desk size influence self-disclosure intentions and positive affect. and that these relationships are mediated by spaciousness perceptions. in turn facilitating self-disclosure and triggering a more positive affective experience. Levav and Zhu (2009) investigated the effects of spaciousness in store environments.sagepub. Okken et al. 2009. These findings suggest that increases in physical space may generate psychological space. respectively) may increase experienced spaciousness and feelings of freedom. 2014 . Meyers-Levy & Zhu. such a refusal should transpire in a lowered willingness to disclose personal information. subsequently generating more creative strategies in a problem-solving task. hence. These combined findings suggest that restrained physical space may indeed invoke feelings of limited psychological space (cf.. In line with these findings.. Conversely. increases in room size or volume and interpersonal distance. interpersonal distance). 2012). They showed that narrow shopping aisles activated feelings of confinement and that these negative feelings are counteracted by making more varied product choices (e. “reactance”). Similarly. Okken et al. 2011) and consumer research (Levav & Zhu. mental concepts (IJzerman & Semin. a proposition also in line with recent embodiment research showing that spatial properties influence people’s reasoning about abstract. research in environmental psychology (see Stamps. Hypothesis 1a (H1a): Increases in room size induce feelings of spaciousness. as opposed to a low. In the context of a consult or interview. Hence.. For instance.e. we argue that architectural and interior-design–related interventions (i.. (2012) studied the effects of room size and interpersonal distance on self-disclosure intentions and affective experiences in experiments involving pictures of a simulated patient consult with a general practitioner. Downloaded from eab. in turn leading to more self-disclosure.g. limiting spaciousness may elicit feelings of restraint.740 Environment and Behavior 45(6) furniture and inhabitants (e. More recently.. room size).

e. 2014 . what do people say?).e.. As suggested by the foregoing.. Conceivably.sagepub. the physical presence of another person is potentially more threatening or awkward than for others (e. 2008. thereby generating more self-disclosure... disclosure with respect to alcohol or drug intake) (cf. for some topics (e. Hypothesis 2b (H2b): Increases in interpersonal distance positively influence the affective experience and perceived ease of self-disclosure. how do participants experience the self-disclosure process?). Participants were recruited by Downloaded from eab.g. To test the hypotheses outlined and additional research questions. In addition to the contents of self-disclosure (i. 48 female) were included in the study. a small or large desk. Hypothesis 1b (H1b): Increases in interpersonal distance induce feelings of spaciousness. ease of self-disclosure varies across topics and self-disclosure is particularly awkward during conversations on personal or intimate topics. large) between-subjects design.. Their mean age was 21. for explorative and practical purposes (i.e. a variety of topics were included to assess the relative importance of the spaciousness manipulations. Joinson et al.e. 1990.33). topics of interest include physical or psychological health and health-related behaviors including substance intake and sexuality.. a large variety of topics may take center stage).8 years (SD = 2.. room size). As discussed. Method Participants A total of 86 participants (38 male. Hypothesis 2a (H2a): Increases in room size positively influence the affective experience and perceived ease of self-disclosure. and desk selection (i. large) × 2 (interpersonal distance: small vs.741 Okken et al. Wiederman & Sansone. In the health care or counseling context. Howell & Conway. disclosure reflecting sexual behaviors). of equal importance is the affective state or the experienced ease of self-disclosure (i.. This resulted in a 2 (room size: small vs.com at Alexandru Ioan Cuza on January 5. Hence. in health care and counseling settings.g. Hence. spaciousness perceptions are positively linked to the affective experience and perceived ease of self-disclosure.e. interpersonal distance). 1999). interview sessions on student lifestyle were arranged in two rooms that were identical apart from their measurements (i.

After turning in the questionnaires. She was not informed of the purpose of the experiment and all students who knew her were excluded from participation. range = 590-677) and spectral distribution (small Downloaded from eab. Lighting conditions in both rooms were measured at several different points inside the room in terms of luminance (small room: M = 643 lx. participants were thanked for their participation and dismissed. After reading and signing a consent form for video recording of their interview. 1981.sagepub. The participants were interviewed according to a script.30 wide × 4. All participants were students enrolled in various (under)graduate programs at the university. they were invited to enter the room. Interpersonal distance was manipulated by varying the desk size. Independent Variables The experiment took place on the campus of the university. Collins & Miller. To manipulate room size. the interviewer introduced herself and invited the participant to sit down in the chair. large room: M = 669 lx. As research suggests that self-disclosure more easily takes place toward women and between people of the same age and status (Chaikin & Derlega. Procedure The participants were randomly assigned to one of the four conditions. After entrance.80 wide × 5. 1994). 2014 . Upon arrival in the building. Upon completion of the interview.78 m2 (4. The interpersonal distance was 80 cm for the small-sized desk and 160 cm for the large-sized desk. range = 597-676 lx vs. A video camera was openly displayed in the corner of the room to record the interview. after which she proceeded with the interview. which was rehearsed by the interviewer in the weeks before the experiment. a female master’s student at the university served as the interviewer.75 deep) and the large room was 19. 1974. Cappella. affective experience.com at Alexandru Ioan Cuza on January 5. two—otherwise identical—rooms of different sizes were used (see Figure 1 for impressions of the four experimental conditions). and perceived ease of self-disclosure).742 Environment and Behavior 45(6) approaching passers-by on the campus of a Dutch university with the request to take part in a short interview concerning student lifestyle that was part of a large survey conducted by the university. they were asked to wait in the waiting area. a short questionnaire was administered (measuring spaciousness perceptions.60 deep). during which the participant was left alone in the room. The small room was 16. The interviewer was already present in the room and started the video recording before the participant entered the room.1 m2 (2.

com at Alexandru Ioan Cuza on January 5. Note: Desk size is small for Photos A and C and large for Photos B and D. Downloaded from eab.sagepub. 2014 .743 Okken et al. Wide-angle photographs of the four conditions. Figure 1. Room size is small for Photos A and B and large for Photos C and D.

” and “It was hard for me to talk about myself inside this room” (α = .” and “This room gives me a pleasant feeling” (α = .” “Inside this room I felt able to speak freely. Emotions. alcohol and drug intake). range = 2849-2870 K vs. Perceived ease of self-disclosure.” “I felt uncomfortable in sharing personal information inside this room. “sexuality” (i...” “I feel uncomfortable inside this room. Perceived spaciousness was measured using the items: “I feel constricted inside this room. Joinson et al.744 Environment and Behavior 45(6) room: M = 2862 K. 2014 . & Conway.” “I feel confined inside this room. 2008). Respondents were asked to describe a regular night out with their friends in terms of alcohol consumption and drug usage. 1990.” “Inside this room. Furthermore. Identical decorative items were used in both rooms and their position did not change during the experiment. fear. Respondents were asked to describe situations in which they felt insecure. A variety of sensitive or intimate topics were selected showing an obvious match with the lifestyle-theme of the interview.84). and loneliness). I feel unhappy. Perceived ease of self-disclosure was measured with the items: “I felt inhibited from speaking inside this room. Sexuality.e. and lonely.e.. The topics included: “substance use” (i. scared. These differences are negligible (Kaufman. range = 2852-2869 K). Substance use.” “I have sufficient freedom of movement inside this room.83). Respondents were asked to voice their opinion about displayed nudity and sexual behavior in the media and to reflect on whether the media has an impact on their own sexual values and behaviors.sagepub. 1973.” and “I would easily feel suffocated inside this room” (α = . Affective experience.com at Alexandru Ioan Cuza on January 5.. attitudes about sex and mass media). Self-Disclosure Measures Self-disclosure was measured by analyzing the answers to the questions asked during the interview.e. large room: M = 2856 K. All questions were measured on 5-point Likert-type rating scales. insecurity. and “emotions” (i. the topic list for the interviews was based on previous research distinguishing between disclosed information in terms of sensitivity (Altman & Taylor. Howell. To measure participants’ affective experience. Downloaded from eab. Questionnaire Perceived spaciousness. an affect-measure was used comprising the items: “Inside this room. I feel at ease. 1981).84).

As an objective measure. the multivariate effect of desk size was significant. p = . F(13.00. There were five measures for self-disclosure.. To determine the reliability of the ratings. affective experience.33. two independent coders viewed the recorded interview sessions and rated participants’ nonverbal behaviors using 5-point rating scales (Cohen’s κ again varied from .70 to 1. self-reference (i. recorded answers to the interview questions were scored on 5-point rating scales.26. p = . Results Results were analyzed for gender and age using ANOVA.39.70 to 1. 72) = 2.001.” Again.745 Okken et al. completeness (i. whether the participant gives a full answer to the question). Having established these effects. Most importantly.” “direction of bodily posture. The measures included “openness of posture.33. In addition.10 for all self-disclosure measures). F(13. perceived spaciousness. Likewise.sagepub. perceived ease of self-disclosure. however. a second coder re-coded a subset of the data independently using the same scales. The second coder was a behavioral scientist who was unaware of the purpose of the study. The analysis yielded a significant multivariate effect of room size. partial η2 = . The intercoder reliability (Cohen’s κ) varied from . to gain more information about the qualitative aspects of self-disclosure. Nonverbal Behavior To obtain additional data on spaciousness-related behaviors. the multivariate effect of the interaction between room size and desk size reached significance. 72) = 2.com at Alexandru Ioan Cuza on January 5. F(13. but as none proved significant there will be no further discussion of these variables (p > . In addition. partial η2 = .” “establishing eye contact. the camera was positioned so as to ensure that the raters would be blind to the conditions.” and “bodily symptoms of distress. 2000). partial η2 = .29.. next the ANOVAs (comprising the same independent and dependent variables) are presented. and intimacy (how intimate is the given answer) were assessed.” “leaning on the table. Downloaded from eab. nonverbal behavior was coded. A MANOVA was conducted.00. with room size and desk size as independent variables and the self-disclosure measures. derived from previous studies (Joinson.e. p = . To measure these qualitative aspects. whether the participant relates the answer to him or herself). word count and duration (in seconds) were measured.e.014. Omarzu.00 indicating high intercoder reliability. and the nonverbal behavior measures as dependent variables.037. 2014 . indicating high intercoder reliability). 2001. 72) = 3.

23. 84) = 6. Further analysis of the simple main effects showed that for the large desk size. Downloaded from eab.24). ns. SD = .15. as compared with the small room. partial η2 = .60. SD = . An interaction was obtained between desk size and room size. SD = .81. indicating that participants experienced the condition with the larger desk size as more spacious in the large room. p = . ns). partial η2 = .sagepub. this difference did not reach significance (small room M = 5. SD = .07.15. Interaction between room size and desk size for perceived spaciousness.17) were higher than for the small room (M = 5. partial η2 = .17). SD = .012.19. F(1.82. large room M = 5.03.17). No main effect was found for desk size. p < .746 Environment and Behavior 45(6) small desk large desk Mean experienced spaciousness 7 6 5 4 3 2 small large Room size Figure 2.48. indicating that participants experienced more spaciousness in the large room than in the small room. Perceived Spaciousness Room size had an effect on perceived spaciousness.000. F(1.10 (see Figure 2).54. F(1. p = .23 vs. perceived spaciousness scores for the large room (M = 5. 2014 . As expected. SD = . there was a significant difference in perceived spaciousness for the different room sizes (small room size M = 4. F < 1. F < 1.004. large room size M = 6. 82) = 16. 82) = 9.com at Alexandru Ioan Cuza on January 5.22 vs. In the small-desk condition.

21.36. 82) = 4. partial η2 = . Room size had significant effect on affective experience. large room M = 5. Interaction between room size and desk size for the perceived ease of self-disclosure.96. In the small-desk condition. large room M = 5. F(1.21. partial η2 = . F(1. p = . small desk large desk Mean perceived ease of self-disclosure 7 6 5 4 3 2 small large Room size Figure 3.78.20 vs.21. ns).05.79.20. SD = . SD = .20. p = .50. SD = . p = . SD = .09).com at Alexandru Ioan Cuza on January 5.01. p = . Downloaded from eab. partial η2 = .sagepub. SD = . F < 1. SD = . partial η2 = .05. Further analysis of the simple main effects showed that the positive effect of room size on self-disclosure was significant only in the large-desk condition (small room M = 4.4. 82) = 8.20 vs. F(1.005.042. the effect of room size was not significant (small room M = 5. No main effect was found for desk size. 84) = 4.23.032.16) than the small room (M = 4.747 Okken et al.73.15).05 (see Figure 3). 2014 . Affective experience. 84) = 4.14) in comparison with the small room (M = 5. ns. SD = . The interaction between desk size and room size was also significant. F(1. Affective Experience Perceived ease of self-disclosure. The large room triggered a more positive affect (M = 5. F < 1.040. Room size had a significant effect on perceived ease of self-disclosure. The large room yielded higher scores for ease of self-disclosure (M = 5.

with room size or the room size × desk size interaction as the independent variable (IDV).sagepub.06ns IDV β3 = . the effects of room size on perceived ease of self-disclosure (β = . SD = .000). F < 1. p = .57. following the procedure outlined by Baron and Kenny (1986).57*** Figure 4.000). Mediation model. Self-Disclosure No overall effects on the self-disclosure measures surfaced across the different topics. and self-disclosure as dependent variable (VD). For desk size and the room size × desk size interaction no significant effects were obtained. *p < .047) and on perceived spaciousness (mediator) were significant (β = . whereas the effect of perceived spaciousness on perceived ease of self-disclosure remained significant (β = . **p < . ***p < . Mediation analyses. similar analyses were conducted (see Table 2).05. perceived ease of self-disclosure.59. perceived spaciousness as the mediator (MED). When room size and perceived spaciousness were included in the model.27. Starting with ease of self-disclosure.21* IDV DV β2 = . as was the effect of perceived spaciousness on perceived ease of self-disclosure (β = . p = . p = . suggesting that the effects of the space manipulations varied Downloaded from eab. were performed to examine whether the effects of room size and the room size × desk size interaction on perceived ease of self-disclosure and affective experience are mediated by perceived spaciousness (see Figure 4).com at Alexandru Ioan Cuza on January 5. these analyses confirm that people feel more at ease self-disclosing personal information and experience more positive affect in the large setting because it inspires spaciousness perceptions. p < . affect.06.40.15). 2014 . To test whether the main effect of room size on affective experience is mediated by spaciousness. p < .01. Results of a Sobel test show that the indirect effect is significant (Sobel z = 2.008). Taken together.012).21. p = .541).27* MED (Perceived Spaciousness) DV β4 = . the effect of room size on perceived ease of self-disclosure became nonsignificant (β = .748 Environment and Behavior 45(6) β1 = .001.

038. a significant mediation was found for the intimacy of the given answer. The number of words used to answer the substance-use questions was lower in the small room as compared with the large room. respondents disclosed more intimate information in the large room because they perceive the room as more spacious. To test whether the effects obtained for self-disclosure were mediated by spaciousness. Sexuality. desk size had a marginal effect on the duration of the answer. Answers were more intimate in the large room.com at Alexandru Ioan Cuza on January 5. Mediation.27.092.91.93.749 Okken et al. partial η2 = .06. p < . However. p = . Emotions. p = . 84) = 5. The effects of room size on intimacy (β = .21.018). Results of a Sobel test show that the indirect effect is significant (Sobel z = 2. p = .13.000). Hence. Substance use. 83) = 5.sagepub.30.05. F(1.180). F(1. The number of words used was higher in the large-desk condition compared with the small-desk condition. partial η2 = . When room size and perceived spaciousness were included in the model.024.021.56.05. p = <. and less other-related. mediation analyses were conducted (see Table 2).03). p = . In other words. 83) = 4. 84) = 5. room size had an effect on openness of posture. p = .048) were significant. partial η2 = . partial η2 = . 83) = 5. Room size had an effect on word count for the questions related to substance use. the effect of room size on intimacy became nonsignificant (β = .024. Participants leaned more forward in the large room (M = 1. as was the effect of perceived spaciousness on intimacy (β = . 2014 . sexuality.025. 83) = 2.03) than in the small room (M = 2. F(1. Participants’ answers took more time in the large-desk setting compared with the small-desk setting. whereas the effect of perceived spaciousness on intimacy remained significant (β = .06.03. Desk size had an effect on self-reference for the sexuality questions. F(1.46.49. No effects surfaced on the other self-disclosure measures (see Table 1). p = . No overall mediating effects of perceived spaciousness were found. Participants’ answers were more self-related.06. Downloaded from eab. partial η2 = . Desk size had an effect on word count for the questions related to sexuality. at the large desk compared with the small desk.51.035) and on perceived spaciousness (β = . depending on the topic of conversation. F(1. 84) = 4. p = . Room size had a marginal effect on intimacy for the questions related to emotions. separate analyses were conducted for each of the three topics: substance use. F(1. and emotions. p = .20. p = .05. p = . p = . for the emotion questions.020.19.75. Also. as compared with the small room. SD = . F(1. Nonverbal Behavior Room size had an effect on direction of bodily posture. partial η2 = . Moreover.000).22. SD = .

18 (5.60) 56.81 (0.03) 4.04) 4.05) 4.16 (0.08) 2.03) 4.43) 68.83 (0.05) 4.09) 4.97 (0.50) 57.03) 1.04) 4.31 (3.14) 56.34 (1.73) 12.sagepub.10) 4.15 (0.70 (5. ***p < .27) 3.17) 36.91) 23.07)  Intimacy 3.70 (1.68 (1.01) 33.04) 33.27) 3.99)  Completeness 4.46 (3.10) 4.27) 15.00 (2.54 (2.03 (1.750 Downloaded from eab.91 (0.61 (1.31) 23.01. .81 (0.20 (0.99) 4.com at Alexandru Ioan Cuza on January 5.86 (0.91 (4.08) 2.05 (1.19) 2.79 (0.23) 15.50 (3.03) 4.03)  Self-reference 4.03) 1.98 (0.05) 3.04) 1.74 (0.92 (0.85 (5.98 (0.73* (0.77) 56.07) 2.62 (7.74 (4.70 (0.08) 2.13) 34.93 (0.10) 4.03) 3.06) 1.97 (0.70 (4.11 (0.94 (0.04) 3.89 (2.94 (0.07 (2.21) 4.10)  Intimacy 1.77) 13.59) 14.95 (. Means (Standard Deviation) for All Measures of Self-Disclosure.50 (0.78) 24.02) 4.98 (2.75 (1.92 (0.63 (.22) 4.70 (0.91* (2.96 (0.06) 25. 30.15) 1.04) 1.79 (0. **p < .28) 12.10) 4.04) 1.03) 4.03)  Self-reference 4.53 (0.89) 4.74 (0.75 (0.15 (0.76) 13.03) 1.06) Large desk Desk size Room × Desk Interaction 62.39 (0.52 (1.23)  Completeness 4.74 (0.05) 4.97 (2.21* (0.05) 62.83 (0.29 (1.03)  Self-reference 3.04) Sexuality   Word count 37.94 (0.05.32 (7.88 (0.26) 26.96 (0.66 (0.96) 33.07 (1.10) 4.86) 4.09 (7.04) 4.04) 1.04) Large room Room size Substance use   Word count 26.97 (0.72 (2.08) 38.18* (0.95 (0.13)  Duration 12.02) 14.49 (0.04) 4.14) 4.05) 4.31) 12.60 (1.04) 4.04) 35.89 (4.04) Small desk Small desk Large desk Small room Small desk Large desk Large room 31.98 (0.07) 4.78 (0.05 (0.23 (0.94 (0.38) 24.93 (0.95 (0.81 (0.72) 15.19) 1.74 (0.10) 2.34 (5.00 (4.80) 16.86) 42.50 (.26 (4.96 (0.48* (2.86)  Duration 13.05 (4.97) 23.03) 4.85 (1.03) 4.28) 1.06) 2.001.13)     Table 1.96 (0.45 (1.14) 4.10) 4.14) 4.87 (1.80 (0.80 (0.57)  Duration 25.07) 2.28)  Completeness 4.19)  Intimacy 1.67 (0.24 (0.85) 24.06) 1.78* (2.69 (0.04) 4.95) 15.33 (0.05 (7.03) Emotions   Word count 56.02* (3.20 (0.20) 1.26) 3.96 (1.06) 1.93 (2.24 (1.03) 4.05 (0.40) 14.52* (0.82 (0.96 (0.19) 42.77 (0.29 (0.96 (4.29 (0.00) 42.05) 4. 2014 Small room *p < .52 (0.81 (1.69) 15.98 (0.36) 26.

19* 2.51*** .70 8.21*** .86*** .01. 2014 Effect 2.23 2.com at Alexandru Ioan Cuza on January 5. *p < .21 . Regression Results for Mediation Analyses.15* 2.59 6.59 . ** p < .56 6.00* 2. MED = mediator.59 6.69*** .05. DV = dependent variable.001. t2 β3 t3 β4 t4 .05 .68 8.13 1. *** p < .40** 2. Perceived spaciousness Room size DV Perceived spaciousness Interaction (Room Perceived × Desk) spaciousness Room size Perceived spaciousness MED Self-disclosure intimacy (emotionrelated questions) Perceived ease of self-disclosure Perceived ease of self-disclosure Room size IDV Table 2.22 β1 Direct effects Note: IDV = independent variable.12*** β2 Indirect effects 2.51 5.06 .25*** .57 6.38* .69*** .47** 2.06 .49 5.sagepub.12 1.21** Sobel z .29 .35 .25 .12* t1 .34*** . 751 Downloaded from eab.

partial η2 = . partial η2 = .05).09).02. Participants displayed a more open posture in the large room (M = 3. SD = .10 vs. Desk size affected the extent to which participants leaned on the table.53. no significant difference was found for the effect of desk size (small desk M = 3.12).10.04.000.51.69.com at Alexandru Ioan Cuza on January 5. SD = . p = .32.12) compared with a small desk (M = 1.33 p = . SD = . p < . In the smallroom condition. partial η2 = . F(1. Downloaded from eab. SD = . Participants leaned more on the table when seated at a large desk (M = 2. p = .752 Environment and Behavior 45(6) small desk large desk Mean amount of eye contact 5 4 3 2 small large Room size Figure 5. partial η2 = . SD = .01. 81) = 2.10.61.10 vs.132). 81) =6. Interaction between room size and desk size for the amount of eye contact. large desk M = 3.57.90. F(1. An interaction between room size and desk size was obtained for establishing eye contact. large desk M = 3. 81) = 4. SD = . SD = . SD = .06. F(1. 84) = 40.09.87. Further analysis of the simple main effects showed that the positive effect of room size on eye contact was only significant in the large-room condition (small desk M = 3.84. 2014 .32.07 (see Figure 5).sagepub. F(1.09) than in the small room (M = 3.

753 Okken et al. Desk size and room size in particular were found to impact spaciousness perceptions. the results clearly stress the importance of taking into account the topic of conversation when studying self-disclosure as a function of the environmental setting. However. In line with this notion. this may create “tunnel vision” that makes factors such as the conversation and the environment much less relevant than the physical appearance and behaviors of the conversational partner (cf. 2010). 1959. the room size and interpersonal distance manipulations had an impact on the affective experience and the ease with which participants self-disclose. 2007). It thus appears that reported ease of self-disclosure and actual disclosing behavior might paint a different picture or that enhanced ease of self-disclosure and accompanying positive affect do not necessarily translate into more objective measures such as duration and word count. for the actual selfdisclosure measures. 1959.com at Alexandru Ioan Cuza on January 5. Downloaded from eab. Sommer. In addition. people generally pay more attention to the physical appearance of the speaker than to the spoken message itself. when discussing activities involving a strong physical component. however. because the physical closeness of another person can pose a threat to peoples’ personal space (Sommer.e. 2010. First. the effect of spaciousness did not transpire in the small-desk setting. In sum. research indicates that discussing sexuality remains a personal. in response to questions about substance use and emotions. Arguably. desk size (i. but when answering questions related to sexuality. Friedman & Förster. A possible explanation is that the small interpersonal distance directs the focus toward the interviewer and away from the architectural design of the room. Friedman & Förster. the physical closeness of another human being becomes salient and poses a greater threat. Thus. redirecting the focus toward this other person and away from environmental aspects such as room size (Easterbrook. the results paint a much less coherent picture. Easterbrook.sagepub. Discussion The results presented confirm the importance of spaciousness manipulations with respect to the affective experience and the ease of self-disclosure. Contrary to expectations. several findings merit further attention and suggest interesting avenues for follow-up research. interpersonal distance) appeared to be the critical factor. Albert and Dabbs (1970) showed that at a small interpersonal distance. room size was of primary importance. Subsequent mediation analyses confirmed that spaciousness perceptions are at the basis of these effects. Nonetheless. Most notably.. the effects varied considerably across the topics and relatively few effects were obtained. 2014 . 2007).

different aspects of self-disclosure take center stage. In addition to giving a more extensive answer.. especially in counseling settings (Joinson et al. For sexuality. “level of detail” may be a relevant measure in conversations on therapy loyalty or occurrences of physical complaints.. as suggested by Levav and Zhu (2009). Furthermore. these results do show that measuring self-disclosing behavior with a single measure or failing to consider the conversational context may lead one to miss out on potentially interesting effects. the intimacy of participants’ responses was affected (with less intimate answers characterizing the small environment). for the emotion questions. different or additional measures may turn out to be of relevance. Wiederman & Sansone. A possible explanation holds that when discussing alcohol and drug intake. more spacious) environment. As mentioned previously.e.e. Although such explanations are admittedly speculative. bragging may be involved (Jung. For instance. 2008. This is likely due to the fact that a small environment and the sharing of negative emotional experiences invoke feelings of intimacy (Howell & Conway. leaning forward and alterations of posture). but also in eyewitness reports (a context in which self-disclosure is also of primary importance). Finally. using more selfreferences can indicate an increased ease to discuss this taboo topic.754 Environment and Behavior 45(6) often taboo. 2014 . Wiederman & Sansone. Martin & Leary. effects of desk size on word count.com at Alexandru Ioan Cuza on January 5..sagepub.. discussing sexual issues with an unknown person is very sensitive and likely influenced by the spaciousness of the situation (Joinson et al. For the substance-use questions. to regain their freedom. leaning forward) to restore appropriate spacing between conversation partners. The effects observed for nonverbal behaviors further suggest that manipulations of interpersonal distance may evoke readjustments (e. 1990). the presence of more overall space) is an invitation to use or claim more space by leaning further forward and by adopting a more open Downloaded from eab. 2001) and that respondents talk more extensively about their intake behaviors in a less restrictive (i. and self-reference surfaced. 2001. word count was affected by room size with more words being spoken in the large setting. topic that induces anxiety and embarrassment. whereas using more other-references may be considered an indication of avoidance. for instance.g.e. Of course. The reported results suggest that a larger room (i.. 1999). Interestingly. the results suggest that depending on topic. the set of measures used in this research is far from exhaustive. This caused respondents in the small environment to limit the amount of intimate information and answer in more general terms to prevent the situation from getting too intimate or.. and in other settings. 1999). duration of the answer. 2008. room size also affected nonverbal behaviors (i. however.

com at Alexandru Ioan Cuza on January 5. in health settings. the settings used also varied to some extent in terms of proportion.sagepub.. Besides the difference in square footage. In addition. Cappella. decorative objects). they do not warrant any conclusions regarding absolute room size. In addition. professional vs. which show that spatial density (i. To influence room size. with the small room being more rectangular shaped than the large room. room layout and positioning of other furniture pieces can influence the amount of space available and in turn possibly influence self-disclosing behavior. participants established more eye contact in the large room. participants in the study described were all students and thus relatively young. In the current study. In line with earlier research (Dindia & Allen. 1981.e. 1974. 1994).e. van Downloaded from eab. environmental settings and their inhabitants may come across as more or less home-like or professional (Verhoeven. as suggested by recent studies showing that environmental preferences and displayed behaviors are influenced by the presence of a threatening person (Wyer & Calvini. 1992). considering the findings of Daves and Swaffer (1971). participants of older age are perhaps more sensitive to characteristics such as gender of their conversation partner. bodily posture. the differences in effects per topic call for adopting a flexible environment (i. a deliberate choice as research shows that disclosure more easily takes place toward women and between people of similar age or status (Chaikin & Derlega. no effects were found for gender and age in this study. We did not examine whether the proportions of the room influenced the effects obtained. with the more furnished room invoking more spaciousness than the empty room. In addition.. although the results presented in this article indicate that relative differences in room size and desk size affect affective and behavioral outcomes. However..g. In addition. However. As for practical implications.755 Okken et al. when resorting to another (smaller or larger) room is not an option. this should not obscure the fact that interviewer characteristics may affect self-disclosure tendencies. Of interest in this context are the results of Stamps and Krishnan (2006). extendible desks) that can be easily altered to fit the needs of a large variation of conversations. the number of objects present in a limited space) can also influence spaciousness perceptions and thus perhaps also self-disclosure. 2011). likewise suggesting an increased willingness to interact. room dividers may be used. In addition. For instance. Collins & Miller. future research should examine the effects of room proportion on affective and behavioral outcomes. the used rooms were existing rooms on the campus of the university. differences in expertise and authority between patient and physician may withhold patients from freely disclosing personal information. 2014 . Furthermore. a female master student conducted the interviews. research indicates that depending on the type of objects (e.

and/or publication of this article.. hence. New York. Downloaded from eab. S. Arguably. Awaiting future research addressing these and other variables. a clear indication that a relational or sex therapist might best keep in mind the importance of interpersonal distance when deciding on room layout and furniture selection. Declaration of Conflicting Interests The authors declared no potential conflicts of interest with respect to the research. D. and/or publication of this article. NY: Holt.. Social penetration: The development of interpersonal relationships. Furthermore. 15. Although room size was most important with respect to substance use and emotions. Clearly. this is something that physicians and counselors should be aware of. bright colors or lighting conditions may foster the impression of a spacious environment. thereby promoting self-disclosure. Altman. Miwa & Hanyu. In light of this notion. Journal of Personality and Social Psychology. Finally.. In line with this suggestion. in addition to objectively manipulating available space. Physical distance and persuasion. Gifford (1988) and Miwa and Hanyu (2006) showed that lighting conditions can affect disclosure tendencies. & Dabbs. J.756 Environment and Behavior 45(6) Rompay. may in turn influence self-disclosure. References Albert. I. (1970). & Taylor. 2011). 2014 . of interest is the finding that alterations of posture (e. (1973). sexual self-disclosure was clearly affected by interpersonal distance. the results reported per topic indicate that the function of the room should be taken into account when designing and furnishing a room. leaning on the table) may be used to adjust interpersonal distance. Funding The authors received no financial support for the research. 1988. M. room atmospherics (which allow for easy and flexible adjustments) can also be used to create illusions of a larger or smaller room and. & Pruyn. 2006). 265-270. of particular interest are effects of atmospheric variables such as lighting and color that have been shown to affect spaciousness perceptions (Stamps.g. a factor that may likewise influence self-disclosure (Gifford. especially when discussing more intimate topics for which a large interpersonal distance is desirable. In light of the findings presented in this article.com at Alexandru Ioan Cuza on January 5. authorship.sagepub. authorship. Rinehart and Winston. the results of the present study confirm the importance of a neglected environmental variable with respect to a key facet of interpersonal behavior. 2007).

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and environmental influences on customer (or patient) behavior in (health) service organizations.sagepub. 2014 . and he has published a variety of studies on customers’ reactions to waiting times. His research interests include the dynamics of social influence and unconscious persuasion.com at Alexandru Ioan Cuza on January 5. Downloaded from eab.760 Environment and Behavior 45(6) Ad Pruyn is professor at the department of Marketing Communication and Consumer Psychology at the University of Twente. employee identification.