Seating Arrangements And Persuasion

Most of us realize that seating arrangements influence feelings and behaviors or we wouldn’t have fought for certain dreamstimefree_7308chairs in our family homes or carefully positioned ourselves in restaurants.  But psychology often takes the ideas we believe (or suspect) and tries to test them out in a more rigorous way than, “Hey, do you feel more friendly when you sit at a round table?” Here is a study that  teases out the type of emotions activated by a seating arrangement and what behaviors those emotions lead to….

Across three studies, this research shows that the shape of seating arrangements can activate two fundamental human needs which, in turn, influence persuasion. When people are seated in a circle shape, they evaluate persuasive material more favorably when it contains family-oriented cues or majority endorsement information – belonging. In contrast, when seated in an angular shaped seating arrangement, individuals evaluate persuasive material more favorably when it contains self-oriented cues or minority endorsement – individualism. These responses arise because circular shaped seating arrangements prime a need to belong and angular evoke the need to be unique.

The researchers hypothesize that, when the awakened fundamental need is: 1. to belong or 2. to be unique, consumers will be most favorable towards material that is consistent with that need.

Sure enough, when seated in a circle, consumers evaluate sales material more favorably when it is consistent with a belongingness need (i.e., it includes family-oriented information or a majority endorsement). In contrast, when a seating arrangement contains angles, consumers prefer a persuasive message when it relates to a uniqueness need (i.e., it includes self-oriented information or a minority endorsement). There are certainly plenty of implications for arranging meetings………………., yes?

Source: Z. (Juliet) Rui and J. Argo from Alberta School of Business; Research Paper No. 2013-18


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