As the saying goes, "keep your friends close, but your enemies closer," but can that also apply to actual distance? A study of New York Yankees fans is showing how hate may change how people judge distance.

Which location is closer to New York, Boston or Baltimore? Don't reach for a map, but which team you root for and who you identify with may affect your judgment of distance. A new study is looking at the role identity threat and social identification play in how we map out the world.

The study focused on asking Yankees fans which stadium was closer, Fenway Park or Camden Yards, and was led by Jenny Xiao, PhD candidate, and Jay Van Bavel, PhD, from the department of psychology at New York University. Yankees fans perceived Fenway Park, home to the hated rival Boston Red Sox, to be closer than Camden Yards, home to the Baltimore Orioles.

The study took place during June 18-19, 2010 outside of Yankee Stadium. At the time, the Yankees were first place in the division, with the Red Sox just one game behind in second place while the Orioles were in last place. Yankees fans were divided into two categories, those threated by the Red Sox and those who were not threatened. The fans were asked to estimate the distance between the stadiums by writing it down or a map measurement. Geographical expertise was also factored for the study.

Camden Yards and Fenway Park are relatively equidistant to Yankee Stadium with Fenway Park being 20 miles further away than Camden Yards. But because Yankee fans perceive the Red Sox to be threats, they believe Fenway Park to be closer. Non-Yankees fans were able to indicate that Fenway Park was just a little further away from Yankee Stadium than Camden Yards.

The reason for this could be due to collective identity. Arbitrary labels as well as people or locations being categorized differently could affect how people judge distance. The researchers cite previous studies that showed how people would assume a domestic location and a foreign location were further away than two domestic locations or two foreign locations.

The study expands on this notion to include how people judge distance based on threat and a collective identity, in this case groups of people identifying themselves as Yankees fans and in turn hating the Red Sox.

To move outside the baseball realm, identity threat was also applicable in other situations. The researchers asked the same fans about a symbolic threat and a more realistic threat. The fans were asked to how strongly they agreed or disagreed with two statements about immigration from Mexico. The participants were asked to estimate distance from New York to Vancouver, Los Angeles and Mexico City. For those who agreed more with the symbolic threat viewed Mexico City as closer than its actual distance from New York.

How we identify ourselves in society and who we perceive as threats go a long way in shaping the world we live in. The researchers believe that by trying to have our enemies close psychologically it alters a person's sense of distance of the world.

The study was published in the Personality and Social Psychology Bulletin.