Why Do We Act So Strangely In Elevators?

We’re all guilty of unusual behaviours at times, but when we step into an elevator in the UK, we all inherit the same uncomfortable demeanour. So what is it about lifts that make us act so strangely?

Even though the average elevator ride is less than 2 minutes, it seems as though that is still plenty of time for us Brits to squeeze in some very strange behaviour.

New research shows that we are all guilty of behaviours in lifts that would turn heads if they were observed in any other setting. When two people who don’t know each other find themselves in a lift together, it is inevitable for them to stand as far apart from each other as possible. They don’t face each other, obviously, but they also don’t make eye contact or speak – god forbid. If the lift is crowded, the same behaviours persist; people stare at the ceiling, or at the ground, or into the middle-distance. Essentially, anything they can do to avoid interaction.

But why do we do this?

One theory is that we still retain some of our social behaviour ever since evolving from primates. This means our mind still responds to danger the same way it has for millions of years, and we perceive these lift encounters as a dangerous social situation.

According to a study from the University of Chicago, much of people’s behaviour in elevators is not the result of rational thinking. The threat of aggression is not real, but our mind responds to it as if it is.

Studies on macaque monkeys in similar settings found they also avoided eye contact, staring instead at some imaginary point outside their cage. The monkeys sat still in separate corners to avoid accidentally bumping into each other – sound familiar?

Turns out millions of years of evolution couldn’t cure us of our social awkwardness, instead, we seem doomed to travel up and down floors in an uncomfortable state for the foreseeable future.

Visit Sheridan Lifts for a quotation on our platform lifts or disabled lifts.