The Psychology Of Space: From The Universe To The Person


Interdisciplinary concepts of space are considered, the essence of the approaches to the concepts of existing space in sociology, philosophy, psychology are revealed. Variants of considering the psychological boundaries that separate a person from the environment are presented. The differences of patterns of functioning and determination of socio-psychological and individual psychological boundaries, their relationship with the processes of socialization and individualization are shown. Revealing the connection of the psychological space with the attitude to the world and other people, the leading role of emotional experience is proved. Such experience individualizes the personal and social space and makes it possible to form an integral form of being in the world. In the focus of attention in this context are the ideas of G.G. Shpet and S.L. Rubinstein, first of all, their approaches to understanding the internal form of language and artwork, as well as the role of culture in the formation of the personal space - exist-sphere. The virtual space of social networks and the Internet is described; possible parameters for the classification and separation of the information space of the information field are presented, as well as the mechanisms of the influence of information on people. The conclusion is made that the idea that everyone needs to build his own space and stand above the social space unites all these concepts. At the same time, virtual space helps to push the outer boundaries of personal space, while culture helps the establishment of the exist-sphere.

Keywords: Exist-spherepersonal and social spacevirtual space


Living space

The question of what living space is and how much space person generally needs in order to feel comfortable in this world is not as simple as it seems at first glance. On the one hand, it is often emphasized that a person needs the whole world, his stuffy individual closed system - rooms, cities and countries are too little for him. On the other hand, it can be argued that many people created their wonderful works without leaving their country (for example, Pushkin) and even being imprisoned (Cervantes).

You can also recall that the main living space is your personality; so many people do not get bored even alone with themselves. It is appropriate here to mention the world project and the existence of Rubinstein (2012), and the psychological field of Levin (2001). At present, the question of living space, its fullness and even size, its connection with the person and individual characteristics of people is becoming particularly relevant in connection with quarantine. Life, unfortunately, is conducting a huge social experiment, and the answer to it is not yet clear. The ambiguity is also associated with the fact that the enormous social network Internet also enters the living space. This virtual space can, in any case, temporarily, if not completely replace or significantly expand the boundaries of people's lives. At the same time, not only psychological aspects begin to appear, but also economic and professional ones, since the narrowing of the psychological field can affect the material, and not only psychological (which, however, is closely interconnected) people's well-being.

This leads us to the question of the relationship of social, objective and psychological, subjective spaces.

Social space in an interdisciplinary field

Social space, by definition, is an interdisciplinary concept, the essence of which, of course, differs in different sciences - philosophy, cultural studies, sociology, psychology. No less important, apparently, is the fact that in a modern, volatile and uncertain society, social space in its essence cannot have a stable and definite content. Therefore, first of all, it seems important to clarify its actual psychological content, which incorporates both external, objective spatial-temporal parameters, and internal, subjective ones, which are primarily affected by social transformations, the variability of social ideas and values, and the uncertainty of norms and installations.

The concept of social space, being interdisciplinary, is not meaningfully defined in any of the humanitarian disciplines.

In the framework of sociological research, the concept of social space is associated primarily with territoriality and social statuses that arise and change in the process of communication. So, Hall (1985) wrote about differences in the information context and variances in the distances (spaces) that arise in communication. This idea was developed in their works by both Giddens (2011) and Tennis (2002), who linked social space with the peculiarities of the relationship of people with each other in space and in time. E. Giddens, revealing the concept of “structure” introduced by him, proves that social space cannot be imagined without the active interaction of social structures and social agents, that is, people who can transform (or influence) social structures and institutions through their activity. At the same time, Giddens, like Tennis, emphasizes that social relations are not only in a certain social space, but also in a specific time.

Bourdieu (2005) presents social space as a multidimensional image in which various subspaces (fields) are allocated (structured). An important point is the fact that Bourdieu identifies two aspects in society - “first-order reality”, associated with physical space and the distribution of material resources, and “second-order reality”, which exists in the minds of people. Social space, unlike the physical one, has no rigid boundaries. Its constituents are the social positions of its social agents, and the topology is determined by the structural disposition of fields: economic, political, cultural, intellectual, etc.

Speaking about the structuring of social space, both Giddens and Bourdieu, although they imply the activity of the social agents, do not focus attention on this activity. At the same time, Simmel, (1996) who wrote the work “The Sociology of Space,” focuses attention on activity, emphasizing that social space is an inactive form that exists only thanks to the energy of the activity of subjects.

It is precisely on the active side of the collective subject’s activity that Štompka (1996) focuses his attention in his concept, highlighting collective actions and individual interactions that form complex structures within which subjects create supra-individual social structures. No less important is that when speaking about the interaction of subjects in social space, Štompka emphasizes that these interactions occur both in space and in time, highlighting not only physical (objective) time, but also social, quality-subjective time.

The territorial (physical) and social space was also divided in the concept of Sorokin (2000), who believed that social space is multidimensional, horizontal and vertical aspects can be distinguished in it. Vertical ones are stratification parameters; they are variable and associated with social mobility of a person, his ability to change his social statuses and his relations with other people and objects.

Psychological space - psychological field

One of the first psychologists who studied human behavior in a social field (space) was Levin (2001). In his theory of the psychological field, Levin proceeded from the fact that the person lives and develops in the psychological field of the objects surrounding him, each of which has a certain charge (valence). His experiments proved that for each person this valence has its own sign, although at the same time there are such objects that for everyone have the same attractive or repulsive force. Levin’s studies proved that not only the current situation, but also its anticipation, objects that exist only in the human mind, can determine his activity. The presence of such ideal motives of behavior enables people to overcome the direct influence of the field and surrounding objects.

One of the most well-known Levin’s equations with which he described the behavior of a person in a psychological field under the influence of various needs, proves that behavior is both a function of personality and psychological field, which, in fact, is one of the aspects of social space. This was also proved by Levin's research on group dynamics. He suggested that the group can also be considered as a dynamic system that forms a social field, by analogy with the system of the psychological field. The social behavior of people in a group is determined by the relationships within it, competing trends, the aspirations of individual group members, and communication channels. That is, group behavior is a function of the general state of the social field, just as a person’s behavior is a function of needs and the psychological field.

Then the question arises of the relationship and boundaries of the social and psychological fields

Problem Statement

Man lives in at least four dimensions of space and time. In recent years, a virtual Internet space has been added to the real space-time continuum. This new space is increasingly becoming one of the leading one in people's lives and activities. Simultaneously with the expansion of the space of life, the tendency to personalize the development of people is also being updated.

Research Questions

What are the relationships and boundaries of social and personal living fields in real and virtual space?

What factors influence the expansion or narrowing of the boundaries of personal space?

Purpose of the Study

  • Identify the classification parameters of the information Internet space.

  • Investigate the impact of virtual and cultural space on the structuring of personal sphere.

Research Methods

Theoretical and methodological analysis of the problem, comparative analytical and spatial analytical approaches.


Personal qualities as a factor in correlating the boundaries of people's self-realization

Individual psychological boundaries, unlike socio-psychological ones, are associated not with external parameters, but with internal determinants, the main of which are individual and personal characteristics (including psychodynamic qualities, intellectual abilities, intension), age and motivational orientation.

If psychodynamic qualities underlie the formation styles of human interaction with the world, then intelligence, including social intelligence, determines the adequacy of the subject's strategies for interacting with others. Intension determines the degree of activity and motivational potential of people, thus setting the amount of spaces (social, interpersonal, professional, etc.) that they can master in the development process. The structure of the hierarchy of motives determines the direction of expansion of psychological boundaries, leading to various methods of restructuring and configuration of both internal, personal, and external, social fields. An important point is the recognition in any of these options the fact of border pulsation - they are not static, but dynamic, they can also shrink and expand depending on the actualization of a particular motive and the characteristics of the social situation.

Adequacy of self-image allows us to push psychological boundaries, while rigid vision of ourselves in a certain role and position narrows them to a thin corridor in which a person suffocates and cannot actively do anything. In turn, the narrowing of the personal space leads to limited opportunities for self-realization.

An equally important issue is the question of the mechanisms that combine social and personal being into a holistic construct. An important point in the creation of this holistic system is the emotional experience, which makes it possible to model the boundaries of the personal space and the ratio of objects in it.

The new living space – virtual space

The information space cannot be considered in isolation from the general social space of a person; it is included in the general structure of the social / personal chronotope. Therefore, it was proposed to separate the concepts of the information space as a general sociocultural space in which people live, communicate and act, and the concepts of the information field representing a specific source or group of information sources. Based on this, several criteria were identified by which information sources can be divided into groups. These criteria may include:

  • degree of influence and / or degree of confidence in the information;

  • form of presentation (visual, verbal, audio information);

  • belonging to certain information groups (print or electronic, films, books, magazines, music, etc.);

  • information content (health, entertainment, hobbies, fashion, cosmetics, cars, etc.),

  • orientation to groups (age, gender, professional, etc.)

There is no doubt that the information received by people is related to their social perceptions and attitudes. At the same time, the perceived information itself influences the existing system of concepts, changing and / or partially modifying it.

The fundamental problem of the modern information society is that social variability and globalization affect not only the economy and politics, but also all aspects of the interaction of different cultures. Naturally, this cannot but manifest itself in ideas about the world around us, in a change in people's values ​​and attitudes. The world has become wider and more open, therefore, for a full-fledged picture of it, it is not enough only personal knowledge and or the knowledge of relatives, more structured, large-scale and objective information is important.

It was showed that the verbal form of information that dominated in the 20th century is gradually transforming into a visual, and in recent years, audio-visual form. Therefore, one of the leading areas of research is the study of the process of perception and processing of information in different social and age groups, especially those features that are associated with an emotional attitude to different types of electronic media, especially the Internet. We can talk about two options for the influence of the media - direct or indirect. The direct influence is based on the mechanisms of emotional infection. Another form of influence is mediated by individual and social-personal factors.

The materials obtained in recent years made it possible to operationalize the concepts of “social and information space”, to reveal the specifics of the relationship between social and information space at different stages of ontogenesis (in childhood, adolescence, youth and adulthood) (Martsinkovskaya, 2015). It was proved that the formation of a close relationship between the two spaces now begins already in early childhood, intensifying with age. Moreover, the closest relationship is established between the real social space and the virtual space of the Internet. In late periods of ontogenesis, the social space is most closely associated with the information space of television. This discrepancy in information preferences and trust has been decreasing in recent years due to the Internet acquisition by 30-40-year-old people, which removes one of the significant causes of intergenerational conflicts.

Personality and culture as an exist-sphere space

The role of the aesthetic component in the general personal space can be represented as a foundation that allows structuring and harmonizing the relationship between its different parts and different scenarios of behavior in the process of forming an individual life path.

Empirical studies of the role of aesthetic experiences in the structuring of personal and social spaces show that positive social emotional experiences (relating to norms, rules, standards that are significant for the social environment) push the boundaries of social space and stimulate the emergence of positive individual experiences that expand the boundaries of personal space.

Negative social experiences, although they do not have the same value in determining social boundaries, play an equally important role in narrowing the boundaries of the personal space. Apparently, this is due to a violation of congruence, the displacement of negative self-awareness in the unconscious and a decrease in the number of parameters by which people evaluate themselves.

The study of the cognitive aspect of experiences showed that a change (expansion) of social space leads to a change in the framework of personal space, self-image, and time boundaries, and this relationship is higher, the higher the average level of intelligence of children and adolescents. Of great importance are data showing the connection between the desire to expand the personal space and the desire to individualize both the social space and the social / personal chronotope. The data proving that the expansion of the purely physical boundaries show also the increase of personal activity as well as social / personal chronotopes - that is, a spatial-temporal continuum of self-representations. Perhaps this is due to the fact that in adolescence the expanding the world-picture and awareness of the multiplicity of world- images in different cultures helps not only to realize one-self, but also to see the prospects in the future.

These data are also confirmed by materials showing differences in the perception of the social space among adolescents living in different cities and / or changing their place of residence. As the materials obtained show, in adolescents from small settlements in comparison with megacities, the social space to a greater extent determines the content of the personality, which is not so individualized. At the same time, in adolescents of a megalopolis, chronotopes are not only more individualized, but also more ambivalent in their emotional content. It is possible that this is one of the manifestations of heterochrony’s, which is reflected, in particular, in the more structured social attitudes and perceptions of oneself precisely in adolescents from big cities. At the same time, the uncertainty of the localization of social (territorial) space does not lead to a structured world-image but leads to a blurring of the boundaries between personal and social spaces.

An important question is related to an analysis of how transitivity and uncertainty affect social and personal chronotopes. On the one hand, they give great freedom, variability in changing all the components of space - language, status, financial situation, place, culture. On the other hand, they bring anxiety as they deprive stability. How much this is connected can be seen in the mismatch of social experiences and social ideas. An important point is the fact that the degree of inconsistency of social / individual experiences and, especially, social ideas about different areas of reality among themselves, is closely related to the uncertainty of localization of social space, especially in those cases when it intensively affects the content of the personal space. Moreover, stable values ​​and interests are structured not only by social representations, but also by chronotopes, both in the direction and content of subjective time, and in the localization of personal and territorial (social) space.


Reflections on the psychology of space are multidimensional and, as has been shown, include interdisciplinary concepts and theories of world space, psychological and physical fields, the Internet, and the sphere of the inner essence of personality.

What unites all these concepts is the idea that everyone needs to build his own space, to stand above the field, without which it is impossible to construct barriers or overcome them, which is often interconnected as two sides of the same coin.

Another important characteristic of the living space of people is the time perspective of this space. Indeed, both its content and the width of its borders are largely determined by its focus on the present, past or future. This becomes not only a feature of the exist-sphere, but also of the personality as a whole, determining the features of relationship to the world, to others, to one-self. After all, the psychological essence of a personal chronotope is precisely attitude, emotional experience. And therefore, it is not surprising that culture is becoming an important factor influencing both individual parts of the chronotope and its temporal and spatial properties.

Currently, the attitude to the information (virtual) and cultural space significantly affects the boundaries of the real social field, allowing you to overcome different types of external frustration, and often even the most severe barriers. At the same time, this attitude makes it possible to build the exist-sphere, as well as expand the boundaries of the personal space, confirming the connection between the external and internal boundaries with individual and personal characteristics.


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15 November 2020

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Psychology, personality, virtual, personality psychology, identity, virtual identity, digital space

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Martsinkovskaya, T. (2020). The Psychology Of Space: From The Universe To The Person. In T. Martsinkovskaya, & V. Orestova (Eds.), Psychology of Personality: Real and Virtual Context, vol 94. European Proceedings of Social and Behavioural Sciences (pp. 467-473). European Publisher.