The Geometry of Persuasion: How Do Seating Layouts Influence Consumers?

circle tableConsumers seated in circular arrangements feel a greater need to belong than those seated in angular layouts, according to a new study in the Journal of Consumer Research.

Seating arrangements matter in a wide variety of contexts. There are websites that provide tips on seating etiquette, guidelines on institutional seating policies, information on maximizing educational benefits through classroom chair layouts, and even software designed to create ideal seating arrangements for events such as weddings, political functions, and executive meetings.

“The geometric shape of a seating arrangement can impact consumers by priming one of two fundamental needs: a need to belong or a need to be unique. Consumers will be most favorable toward persuasion material (advertising) that is consistent with the primed need,” 

In a series of studies, consumers were asked to sit in either a circular or an angular seating arrangement. They were then asked to evaluate various advertisements.   The researchers found that consumers seated in a round pattern had a more positive impression of the ad suggesting that they put friends and family first. On average, round-table consumers rated the altruistic advertisement 3.78 on a 7-point scale–while their angular-table counterparts rated it 2.75 on average.

On the other hand, angular-table consumers prefered the self-oriented ad campaign–ranking it 3.82 out of 7, in comparison to the round-table crowd’s 2.41.

It is important to understand how seating arrangements influence consumers in a wide range of settings such as restaurants, hotel lobbies, public transit, or waiting areas in airports and doctors’ offices.

“Circular shaped seating arrangements prime a need to belong while angular shaped seating arrangements prime a need to be unique. The shape of a seating arrangement, a subtle environmental cue, can activate fundamental human needs, and these needs in turn affect consumer responses to persuasive messages,” the authors conclude.

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