Why we stand where we do in elevators


“More senior men in particular seemed to direct themselves towards the back of the elevator cabins,” she writes in a blog for Ethnography Matters. “In front of them were younger men, and in front of them were women of all ages.”

There was also a difference in where people directed their gaze mid-ride: “Men watched the monitors, looked in the side mirrors (in one building) to see themselves, and in the door mirrors (of the other building) to also watch others. Women would watch the monitors and avoid eye contact with other users (unless in conversation) and the mirrors.”

In other words, men would check everyone else (and themselves) out during their elevator ride. Women, on the other hand, would only look in the mirrors when they were with other women.

Surely this can’t be the natural way we organise ourselves in elevators. The experiment was conducted in the tallest office buildings of Adelaide in Australia so power relations and hierarchies must come in to play.