Can where you sit make you more persuasive?

Yes, according to Steve Martin, co-author of Yes! 50 Secrets from the Science of Persuasion.

Sit in the middle. As an aside, if you are ever a contestant on the weakest link, starting off in one of the two central positions in the semi-circle will improve your odds of winning.

The study went on to find that this ‘centre-stage’ effect also influenced business decisions. For example, executives who sat in the middle on interview panels or in board meetings tended to have a greater influence over others in the group by virtue of just sitting in that position. The researchers argued that one reason why this occurs is because of our learned associations that “the most important people are expected to be positioned in the middle.” For example, the bride and bridegroom, the gold-medal-winning athlete and the chairman of the board.

These studies provide some useful lessons for business. If there is a tendency to believe that ‘important’ people sit in the middle, then less attention might be paid to any errors and mistakes they make, and there’s a chance that a flaky opinion or a less than well-thought-through policy won’t be challenged or debated. This phenomenon is referred to as someone becoming the ‘centre of inattention’.

The study went on to suggest that when it comes to displaying products, the ‘centre-stage’ effect can also have influence. Customers asked to choose one of three simultaneously presented products significantly selected the middle choice more often than the other two. When the choice was extended to five varieties of products (all priced the same) they found the same effect.

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