Physical Distance and AIDS: Too Close for Comfort?

Kim M. Mooney, St Lawrence University
Ellen S. Cohn, University of New Hampshire - Main Campus
Margaret B. Swift, St Lawrence University


The purpose of the study was to assess attitudes toward AIDS as measured by physical distance. Fifty-two female students were told that they would be interviewing an AIDS patient, a homosexual, a cancer patient, or another student. While waiting, they arranged the two chairs for the interview. The distance between chairs was measured. Subjects placed the chairs significantly farther apart when they anticipated interviewing an AIDS patient than when they anticipated interviewing people under the other conditions. The results suggest that people are still uncomfortable with AIDS patients even under casual circumstances that require minimal physical contact. Implications for social interactions are discussed.