Seat staff at a round table

by Rose Sneyd28 Jun 2013

The table at which you sit can bring out one of two contrasting attitudes, according to a new study by researchers from the universities of Alberta and British Columbia in Canada.

Sitting around a circular table facilitates a sense of belonging to a group, and results in a less argumentative attitude among those seated. Conversely, when people sit in a square or row, this supposedly draws out people’s individualism.

Canadian researchers had volunteers sit at different-shaped tables and analysed how they responded to different advertisements. Those seated in a circle or oval were more positive about those advertisements that represented groups of family members or friends, whereas those seated in a square or rectangle identified with those that represented individuals.

 “The geometric shape of a seating arrangement can impact consumers by priming one of two fundamental needs – the need to belong or the need to be unique,” the study’s authors, Juliet Zhu and Jennifer Argo, wrote.

“Circular-shaped seating arrangements prime a need to belong while angular shaped seating arrangements prime a need to be unique.”

The study, which was published in the Journal of Consumer Research, could have implications for the way that staff participate in a meeting. If you want to encourage a sense of unity and cohesion, try sitting everyone in a circle at your next monthly meeting.