Say where you feel and I’ll tell you how you are (environmental psychology explains it)

If for some reason we have suffered at Christmas, it is for the family lunches and dinners, one by one. For this reason, the center of all interaction at these parties is this table we have all gathered at, We catch up, eat, laugh and party.

But not all tables are the same, nor are all the places around them. Spatial arrangement exerts different influences on people; in their level of participation and their nature. It is the subject of a study in environmental psychology and group psychology, disciplines which have detailed the effects of your position on the table.

Types of spatial arrangements

In terms of the variety of arrangements in space, three classics stand out: the concentrated, the sociofugal and the sociopath.


All seats are oriented in a specific direction. With this provision it focuses attention on a focus and decreases the interaction between users; participation is user-centered and vice versa. This is the typical orientation of classrooms, in which students are encouraged to look after the teacher and not talk to each other.

2. Sociofugue

All the seats are facing outwards. By organizing in this way, users turn their backs, so interpersonal communication is limited. The little interaction that occurs in this arrangement tends to be on an intrapersonal and self-directed level. Although this is not usual, he resorts to sociofugas dispositions, for example in certain currents of psychoanalysis in which the patient returns to the psychotherapist, facilitating introspection.

3. Sociopaths

All the seats are turned inwards. This case is quite the opposite; users orient themselves among themselves, facilitate interpersonal communication and bring it to the intragroup. For the processes of trust and cohesion, it is fundamental, for the facilities it promotes for interaction and exchange. This is most typical of our society in group meetings, where the focus is on the group itself.

Sociopathic disposition: most common in everyday life

However, of all these provisions, the one we find the most in our daily life is the sociopath.

We all gathered at tables to be with friends, family or at business meetings. This makes the most influential sociopathic disposition in the spheres of our life and from which we can make the most of knowledge. In a sociopathic disposition depending on your position, do not participate in the same way, or with whom. If orientation has its effects, so does geometry.


A square table has all four equal sides, so everyone has the same opportunity to speak in the group and no big difference seems to be made. However, it influences smaller relationships, dyads or triads. People who sit in the group, that is, in adjacent seats, tend to cooperate, reinforce each other and get along. In contrast, in opposing seats there is a tendency to compete, fostering disagreements and questions. Of course, in both arrangements there is a greater degree of interaction than if we sit in the corners.


In rectangular tables, there are two narrower sides where the header effect occurs: by occupying this position, more status is conferred. In the header, there is not as much ease of communication as in the middle of the wide sides, as it limits eye contact and costs more to see you. When you speak, however, it attracts attention more easily, as the same table leaks direct the gaze to the header and facilitate the person as the center of interest. As for the wide sides, if someone is in the center, it shows that person wants to get involved and interact. Those in the area, on the other hand, prefer to stay away, see what gets done first, and then they’ll step in – or not. This facilitates the roles of participant and initiator in the center and observer and follower in the corners.


In circular arrangements, the orientation of the seats does not change as drastically as in more rigid geometric shapes, such as square and rectangular. Because of that, For the purposes above, they tend to decrease, for example, there is no location indicating higher status, Not a place where one can protect oneself, because they are all equally exposed. However, there is the Steinzor effect, which tends to interact more with the people in front of you, to have more eye contact; so if you have something to say to someone, sit down in front of them, they will help you.

Other environmental factors

Other environmental factors in the ecology of the group may be temperature, which at high levels promotes irritability or noise as a cause of stress. Even the same size of a room can influence the number of people, as it is not the same to be five, to hold the meeting in a large room or in a small room. But of all, the most controllable is where we sat down and who knows, maybe for next Christmas we want to change places.

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