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Why It Matters Who You Sit By In The Office

Photographed by Phoebe Chuason.
Now might be a good time to scoot your desk away from the office slacker. If the boss complains, just show them this study.

In April, the Psychonomic Bulletin and Review published a study which found that sitting next to someone who is concentrating on a task can positively influence a person's own concentration. Think of your desk-mate or the buddy from your writing group who joins you for coffee and work sessions.

"The presence of another person can influence task performance," researchers noted after having 38 volunteers perform a task in tandem. When one person on the team had to work harder, they grew more focused. In return, the other person, who had a less arduous task, also appeared more focused.

The caveat is that it's still unclear whether or not a person's performance benefits from the interaction. In other words, your budding novel may not be any better because you're writing it across from someone glued to their laptop; you will just be able to focus more on it. That's not nothing, though.

"These results provide a first compelling demonstration that the exertion of effort is contagious," the Belgian research team said.