Simply Science: Elevator Behavior

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Yeah, I see you … taking the ICC elevator from floor two to floor three. Or worse, from floor three to floor two.

Many of us consider the elevator a blessing, and sometimes this blessing introduces us to different people: professors fighting about something you don’t understand, a person on the phone annoying the hell out of you with details of his/her afternoon, that awkward dude that gets on thinking that the elevator is going up when it’s really going down, etc.

One scientist, Ph.D. candidate Rebekah Rousi, spent days just riding up and down various elevators, trying to sort out what sort of trends in behavior there are. She discovered something unexpected; there were identifiable trends going on (the causes of which are still being studied).

She realized that “more senior men in particular seem to direct themselves towards the back of the elevator cabins,” while younger guys took up the middle, and in the front women (of all ages). She determined that there was no common logic to this. For example, it wasn’t segregation by age or height. So what was it?

Apparently, the elevator world’s male demographic hosts a distinctly predatory population. People in the back, of course, are better able to see other people in the elevator. Men will tend to look at side and door mirrors to check out other passengers and themselves (and tend to not care about being indiscreet).

Women on the other hand tend to avoid eye contact and only look in the mirrors to check out other elevator-goers when with other women. Rousi theorizes that this might have to do with some gender-driven power structure. The older more “senior” men stood in the back while the younger men flocked to the less powerful middle positions.

She admits that it’s plausibly something else. Perhaps it’s just a matter of bolder people standing in the back, and certain people with fewer qualms about displaying their vanity in public. All in all, we really don’t know … which makes it all the more exciting!

Akari Kubo (SFS ’14) says, “That study is BS. In this day and age everyone just looks at their smartphones.”  Tell us what you think of elevator behavior in the comment section while you’re riding down to the lobby from the second floor of New South.



Simply Science is a reoccurring post that aims to make recent scientific discoveries accessible and applicable to the Georgetown student.

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