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body language: marking our territory

August 13, 2010

Some animals mark their territory by leaving scent marks. Humans have “territories” too, and we mark the borders of our territories, e.g., building a fence around a house.

We also show ownership by touching objects: we lean against the door frame of our office or put our feet up on the desk. Proud owners of new cars will often be photographed sitting on or leaning against their car.

This doesn’t apply just to objects. Couples often put one arm around each other, hold hands, or pick imaginary lint off each other, not just to show affection, but to let other people know “He/she is mine. Back off!”

Humans also leave objects to mark their territory. We hang our jackets on the back of a chair to tell others that this is our seat. Or we put a nameplate or a mug on our desk.

My company once had two part-time administrative assistants who had to share the same office and the same desk. One woman was there in the mornings, the other in the afternoons. As soon as the first one had left, the other one put her own nameplate and her favorite pens on the desk and pushed all possessions of her colleague away, claiming the space as hers.

Next, I’ll take a look at what happens when someone violates our territorial claim.

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One comment

  1. […] I wrote in my blog post on human territories, touching an object can be a sign of owning it. Research showed that just […]



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