A prevailing assumption in many behavioral studies is the underlying normal distribution of the data under investigation. In this regard, although it appears plausible to presume a certain degree of similarity among individuals, this presumption does not necessarily warrant such simplifying assumptions as average or normally distributed human behavioral responses. In the present study, we examine the extent of such assumptions by considering the case of human–human touch interaction in which individuals signal their face area pre-touch distance boundaries. We then use these pre-touch distances along with their respective azimuth and elevation angles around the face area and perform three types of regression-based analyses to estimate a generalized facial pre-touch distance boundary. First, we use a Gaussian processes regression to evaluate whether assumption of normal distribution in participants’ reactions warrants a reliable estimate of this boundary. Second, we apply a support vector regression (SVR) to determine whether estimating this space by minimizing the orthogonal distance between participants’ pre-touch data and its corresponding pre-touch boundary can yield a better result. Third, we use ordinary regression to validate the utility of a non-parametric regressor with a simple regularization criterion in estimating such a pre-touch space. In addition, we compare these models with the scenarios in which a fixed boundary distance (i.e., a spherical boundary) is adopted. We show that within the context of facial pre-touch interaction, normal distribution does not capture the variability that is exhibited by human subjects during such non-verbal interaction. We also provide evidence that such interactions can be more adequately estimated by considering the individuals’ variable behavior and preferences through such estimation strategies as ordinary regression that solely relies on the distribution of their observed behavior which may not necessarily follow a parametric distribution.
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