Proxemics in waiting areas of health centres : a cross-cultural study
The design of waiting areas in Malaysia's health centres appears to ignore human feelings and behaviour. This was observed by the present researcher; similar concerns about waiting areas in health centres in the U.K. have been voiced by other authors such as Beales (1978) and Cammock (1973, 1975. 1983). 'Proxemics' or the interpersonal distance relationship between people in conducting their daily activities within their cultural domain is broadly categorised under the study of human spatial behaviour. There is in abundance of studies on human spatial behaviour. but few have focussed on the cross-cultural aspects. Results from those few studies have not been consistent. the reason being methodological (see Hayduk (1983); Aiello (1987); Bell, et. al., (1996)). However, those studies that can be categorised as 'truly' crosscultural, that involved natives of the country when the study was conducted, and which used the field/naturalistic unobtrusive observation method - that is in conducting the research at the actual setting rather than in laboratories, and making the observations in an inconspicuous manner, have all supported the hypothesis that there are cross-cultural differences. This method, together with a new technique of measurement, was adopted for the present research. It was used to examine differences in proxemics behaviour between people of Western and Eastern cultures, specifically between the British and the Malaysians in health centre waiting areas. This research is intended to uncover the basis on which subjects made their choices about where they would sit in a waiting room. The factors break down into three main classes: those about the subjects themselves, those that relate to the properties of the seating, and those which relate to the presence of other people. Following a literature review it was hypothesised that the observed behaviour of the British subjects would demonstrate a tendency to maintain interpersonal space in their choice of seats, whereas the Malaysian subjects would demonstrate an interest in using the opportunity for social intercourse. Within the limitations of the present research and the Eastern cultural background of the present researcher, the findings from the present study however remained inconclusive. While several of the fmdings seemed to suggest that the British subjects demonstrated a tendency to maintain inter-personal space in their choice of seats, there were also other findings that suggested otherwise.