The seat you choose impacts your perception of others (and vice versa). Choose wisely.
A RESEARCH STORY
Many police departments video record interrogations in order to submit confessions into evidence in a jury trial. In the past, the video recordings often focused only on the face of the suspect, leaving the interrogator out of the frame.
But, in light of research findings from 2002, that practice has largely changed. The research of psychology professor Daniel Lassiter concluded that camera angles influence a jury’s perception of criminal interrogations. Juries were more likely to perceive a suspect as guilty when the camera was focused only on the suspect’s face.
By reversing the camera angle to focus on the interrogator’s face, the jury’s perception was also reversed. The jury was more likely to believe the confession was coerced when they could only see the interrogator’s face.
Research determined that the best angle for objective and neutral influence is at an angle in between the two subjects. This position allows the viewer to see the faces and body language of both parties.
The next time you’re watching a crime drama, keep this in mind. Is the camera angle trying to manipulate your emotions to trick you into missing a tricky plot twist?
Read more about this research: Lassiter Research on Juries and Videotaped Confessions Noted in NY Times
But other than changing the way you view crime drama, how else does this information apply to you?
Think of yourself as the camera when you sit in a conference room for a meeting. Are you the leader of the meeting? Are you in a power struggle with one of the other meeting members?
Where you sit and how well others can see you may impact the influence they perceive you to have. People in your direct field of view will play a larger role in your memories of the meeting. Who you remember actively participating in the meeting may be influenced by who you are able to make eye contact with. Similarly, those who can see you clearly during a meeting will remember you more clearly.
HERE ARE SIX THINGS TO TRY IN YOUR OWN LIFE:
- Sit in the direct view of a person you want to make sure remembers your presence at the meeting. Good positions would be across from her or next to her.
- To be seen as influential, sit at the head of the table or at a place where all members can see you. Be wary of who sits at the the other head of the table. Are they a friend or foe? They will also be in direct line of sight to the group and this could detract from the perception that YOU are the leader. If you want to avoid this problem, remove the chair at the other end of the table so that only one “head” exists.
- Know that those who can’t fully see you may not hear you or absorb everything you want them to take away from the meeting. Note who those people are and consider following up with them after the meeting to casually reiterate points or confirm their understanding.
- When observing a group or joining a meeting for the first time, your most objective and balanced perceptions of the group’s dynamics will come from a location where you can see the most faces at once, including the leader’s. Choose accordingly.
- Consider having two notetakers placed at opposite locations in the room. This will capture more variety in the observations and increase the likelihood your notetakers pick up on things you may not have noticed yourself.
- When choosing a focus group facility, look for one that provides video recordings and has flexibility in the angles provided. Ideally, you want to be able to see the faces and body language of all participants. This will help you be the most objective and thorough in your analysis and measure any amount of bias or leading that might have existed in the moderator’s style (body language or facial expressions). Many facilities now boast the ability to capture anywhere from two to four camera angles in their capabilities.