Elevator science

Last night I read a fascinating study of people in elevators by a psychologist named Lane Longfellow. By “fascinating” I mean “I can’t believe someone actually studied this, but it’s fun and cool and exactly what you’d expect”. Here are the highlights of the study:

Normally the first person on the elevator grabs the corner by the buttons or a corner in the rear. The next passenger takes the opposite corner. Then the remaining corners are seized, after which comes the mid-rear-wall and the center of the car. Then packing becomes indiscriminate. “When the sixth person gets on you can watch the shuffle start,” says Longfellow. “People don’t quite know what to do with the sixth person. Then another set of rules comes into play governing body contact.”

In an uncrowded elevator, men stand with hands folded in front; women will hold their purses in front. That’s called the “Fig Leaf Position”. Longfellow says, “As it gets more crowded you can see hands unfold and come down to the sides, because if you have your hands folded in front of you in a really crowded elevator, there’s no telling where your knuckles might end up. So out of respect for the privacy of other people you unfold them and put them at your side.”

High-status individuals are given more space. For instance, if the president of the company gets on, he gets more space.

Men leave more space between themselves and other men than women do with other women.

See? Fascinating!