This book serves as the foundation for the entire domain of proxemics. Edward Hall can be seen as the “father of proxemics” as his research launched an entire field of study. But is it worth buying? If you’re a new student to profiling, I have to recommend that you pass on it for now.
The first nine chapters (111 pages out of a total of 192) do not apply to the way that we use Proxemics in predictive profiling and many are focused on animal behavior. By the time we get to chapter ten, Hall does finally break down the four proxemic zones for humans, which are important to us: the intimate, personal, social and public zones. However, Hall only dedicates about two pages to each zone with minimal discussion of an invasion into a person’s intimate or personal space. This is the functional area that means a lot to profilers. Understanding the concept of the zones is important, but it is the application of those zones and the behavior that results from violations of them that provide the greatest benefit to us when we are establishing our baseline and searching for those anomalies. It was in this area, how to apply and analyze what we are observing using proxemics that I was hoping to see more focus on from Hall.
One of the major criticisms of Hall’s work is the fact that the distances for each zone are not universal, but extremely sensitive to cultural differences. He acknowledges in his writing that his distances are based off interpersonal interaction of people in the Northeastern Seaboard of the United States, and should not be taken as globally applicable. He in turn dedicates chapters eleven and twelve to expanding on this point by comparing European, Arab and Japanese dynamics in relation to proxemics. These applications tie in with sensory perception and often times are discussed using a person’s sense of smell, which is not vital to combat profiling.
One final positive note, though, is the degree to which Hall discusses territoriality, which has a number of applications to combat profiling. This is what guides the way in which a person reacts when his intimate zone has been breached as well as how we discuss anchor points in the geographics domain. He defines territoriality as what happens when a person lays claim to an area and defends it from others. This is one factor that lets us predict human behavior.
Again, if you are just beginning to learn about profiling, I would not recommend that you buy this book, as there are a number of others that have greater overall application to our material. If you are at the point in your learning that you want to understand where the concepts originally developed, this can be a resource, but I wouldn’t expect too much additional insight.
Different perspective on The Hidden Dimension? Let me know.
Want to see other books that we have read and recommend? Take a look at our complete reading list for our other suggestions.