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Want to Persuade? Check the Seating Arrangement

Round table or square table: Your audience's seating arrangement affects their priorities, researchers say.
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Perhaps King Arthur was onto something; according to a new study published by the Journal of Consumer Research, seating people at either a round or an angular table can impact their priorities.

"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," wrote authors Rui Zhu (University of British Columbia) and Jennifer Argo (University of Alberta).

Zhu and Argo conducted a series of studies in which they arranged consumers in either circular or angular seating patterns before showing them two travel advertisements. In the first, consumers were asked to make their family and friends a priority as part of the sales pitch; in the second, they were asked to prioritize themselves.

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 advertisment 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.

So before delivering your next product pitch, consider how your audience is seated.

"Circular shaped seating arrangements prime a need to belong while angular shaped seating arrangements prime a need to be unique. Consumers will be most favorable toward persuasion material (advertising) that is consistent with the primed need," the authors concluded.

 

Last updated: Jun 24, 2013

FRANCESCA FENZI | Staff Writer

Francesca Fenzi reports on entrepreneurship, technology and small business news from San Francisco. Her work has previously appeared in TIME, USA Today, Pop City and The Northside Chronicle.




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