Aversion to sitting in front

It fascinates me that, at least in many situations, people seem extremely averse to sitting at the front of a room.

This only seems explicable to me as a conditioned behavior, acquired during school years when they and their peers wanted to sit as far as possible from the front of the classroom, in order to evade the teacher calling on them.

If I’m correct, then this behavior’s persistence throughout adulthood is confounding in multiple ways.

  1. Even in school, did it actually succeed? I wonder. I suspect that teachers might say no, of course not, I’m just as likely to call on a student in the back of the room as one sitting up front. Statistical analysis might reveal otherwise—but I don’t know, perhaps it would not.
  2. At all events, it does not really make sense to continue this behavior as adults. Since graduating college, I may have been in a few situations where a presenter called upon members of the audience who weren’t volunteering for interaction. But these have been vanishingly rare. It doesn’t really happen. There is no need to continue hiding in the back of the room!
  3. Yet people do this even when they are at meetings voluntarily—and presumably wanted to hear at least some of the program. It happens even at meetings when there are nearly endless questions for the speaker, presumably reversing the underlying logic of seating and making the front of the room the first place to fill up.

So many people spend their lives trying to sit as close to the back of the room as possible, though. Does anyone besides me even think about it? Is it just entirely subconscious? What is the deal?

One Thought on “Aversion to sitting in front

  1. I have two unrelated thoughts on this…

    1) Sometime in high school, I decided that a better approach than sitting in the back was to sit right up front, but as far to the side as possible. I reasoned that I looked like I was being studious by sitting in the front row, but by sitting on the side, I was more likely to be in (or perhaps even beyond!) the teacher’s peripheral vision. If they scanned the classroom, since a person’s line of sight is a kind of an arc, they’d still see everyone in the back but they’d have to actively turn their head to the side to really notice me. I don’t know that I had any way to empirically test that, but I think it still makes sense.

    2) Currently, if I’m “forced” into some kind of setting like that, my concern is less about getting called on and more about becoming a distraction by my obvious non-attention (either just mucking about on my phone or, on occasion, nodding off). If it’s a topic I am genuinely interested in, I’ll usually opt for something as close to front and center as possible…

    2.5) … with the caveat that if the room has more of a tiered seating thing going on, I’ll aim for seats that put me closer to eye level with the speaker(s). I’ve been in more than a few instances where this winds up putting me several rows back, particularly if there’s a raised stage/platform.

    As I think on it (which I suppose gets me well beyond two points now) I wonder if that helps to explain avoiding the front row for most people in most instances. As an audience member, you’re sitting looking at (generally) standing speaker. If you’re in the front row, that means you’re inherently well below their eye line and you have to spend the entire time looking up at them. By sitting back a ways, your view isn’t nearly as angled. Kind of like why no one likes sitting in the front row at a movie theater — you spend the entire movie with your neck craned upwards. Sitting back a ways, you can keep your head and eyes in a more naturally straight-forward position.

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