equilibrium hypothesis

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The proposition that participants in a social interaction who feel that the degree of intimacy conveyed by certain channels of non-verbal communication is inappropriate to the level of intimacy of the relationship, will tend to compensate by reducing the intimacy conveyed through other channels. For example, when crowded situations such as underground trains force people to stand closer together than is ordinarily appropriate with strangers, they tend to reduce the level of intimacy by engaging in less eye contact. The hypothesis was formulated by the English psychologist Michael Argyle (1925–2002) and his undergraduate student Janet Dean (now Janet Dean Fodor, born 1942) and first published in the journal Sociometry in 1965, together with experimental evidence that increased proximity tends to result in decreased eye contact.

Subjects: Psychology.

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