management by matrices

a fresh perspective on management.

Seating Arrangement and Social Interaction

Have you ever wondered why the seats in an airport waiting area are tightly bolted and arranged in a manner that they all face the same direction? Well, research suggests that there could be a very commercial reason for that.

Seating patterns are classified into two categories:
1. Sociopetal : An environmental condition (such as a seating arrangement) that promotes social interaction. Eg. A park bench, a circular arrangement of seats etc.
2.Sociofugal: An environmental condition (such as seating arrangement) that discourages interaction among group members. Eg. Rows in a classroom, waiting areas in hotels and airports.

Sommer feels that airport seating is deliberately designed in a sociofugal manner in order to drive people away from the waiting area into shops and cafes where they will spend their money. I think that the reason could be that designers of such seats want people to have their own space while waiting, without feeling compelled to engage in any form of social interaction. Even seats which are placed opposite to each other in airport waiting areas tend to be so far apart that you never feel compelled to interact or even acknowledge the person opposite you.

Some other interesting concepts related to the effect of seating arrangement on social interaction:
The Steinzoir Effect: The Steinzoir effect is the tendency for members of a group to speak immediately after the person who is sitting opposite them. This is possibly because we have an easier time observing people who are directly in our field of vision and hence their statements act as a stronger stimulus for us to respond, when compared to that of other members of a group. The next time you are in a group discussion that is being used as part of a selection process, consider sitting opposite the person who is most likely to dominate the group. If not anything else, it will ensure that you will speak enough during the course of the discussion!

The head of the table effect: This one is obvious. It is the tendency of people sitting at the head of a table to be naturally perceived as leading the group seated around the table. Even if you aren’t the leader type, merely positioning yourself at the head of the table will make group members perceive you to be the leader.


  1. gravatar

    Maybe they sit so because all of them need to face the television!

    4:04 AM
  2. Gaurav


    Fascinating. :)

    Enjoyed this one.


    12:36 PM