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Round Tables

February 27, 2014

Round tables may make people behave more cooperatively.



Insights into round tables. I’m Bob Hirshon and this is Science Update.

690px-King_Arthur_and_the_Knights_of_the_Round_Table Michel Gantelet 1472

According to legend, King Arthur’s knights sat at a round table because Arthur wanted them to see each other as equals. (Michel Gantelet. 1472)

If you want a more cooperative workplace, adding round tables may be more than a symbolic gesture. This according to Julian House at the University of Toronto’s Rotman School of Management. In one experiment, he seated participants at either round or square tables. They played an economic game in which they could donate to a public fund, which benefits all the players, or try to reap that benefit while holding on to their own money.

JULIAN HOUSE (University of Toronto):

Although everything else in the room was exactly the same in these two conditions, the people seated at the round table contributed more to this public good than the people seated at the square table.

In another experiment, House’s team showed people the office space of a fictional company. People rated the company as more cooperative if the boardroom table was round instead of square or rectangular – even if every other detail was identical. I’m Bob Hirshon for AAAS, the Science Society.