Interpersonal distance and social anxiety in autistic spectrum disorders: A behavioral and ERP study

Anat Perry, Einat Levy-Gigi, Gal Richter-Levin, Simone G. Shamay-Tsoory

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review


An inherent feature of social interactions is the use of social space or interpersonal distance—the space between one individual and another. Because social deficits are core symptoms of Autistic Spectrum Disorder (ASD), we hypothesized that individuals on this spectrum will exhibit abnormal interpersonal distance preferences. The literature on interpersonal distance in ASD is not conclusive. While some studies show preferences for closer distances among this group, others show preferences for farther distances than controls. A common symptom of ASD that may explain the variance in responses to interpersonal distance in this population is social anxiety (SA), which has been shown to correlate with interpersonal distance preferences. In the current study, we investigated interpersonal distance preferences in a group of individuals with ASD using both behavioral and ERP measures. We found greater variance in interpersonal distance preferences in the ASD group than in the control group. Furthermore, we showed that this variance can be explained by differences in SA level and can be predicted by the N1 amplitude, an early ERP component related to attention and discrimination processes. These results hint at the early sensory and attentional processes that may be affecting higher social behaviors, both in subclinical and in clinical populations.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)354-365
Number of pages12
JournalSocial Neuroscience
Issue number4
StatePublished - 4 Jul 2015

Bibliographical note

Publisher Copyright:
© 2015 Taylor & Francis.


  • Autism
  • Interpersonal distance
  • N1 ERP
  • Personal space

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Social Psychology
  • Development
  • Behavioral Neuroscience


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