How we behave in empty spaces — and then how we behave in those same spaces when others join us — has always been a fascination of mine.  There’s an “Elevator Dice Theory” arguing that people fill up that confined space in a predictable pattern that models a die face.  One person stands in the center.  Two people take opposing corners.  Three people stand in a diagonal row, and so on.

In my direct observation of elevator theory, I find the die face theory is not applicable.  I don’t think I influence the outcome, but perhaps I am by the way I move in that space.  Oftentimes the end game is already engaged when I enter the car.

When I enter an elevator alone, I don’t stand in the center.  I take a corner next to the control panel.  I find it odd that, for the die theory to work, a person would need to enter the elevator, move to the corner to push the button and then move back, alone, to fill the center space.

When the second person enters the elevator, I stay in my control panel corner and, inevitably, that person does not take the opposite corner from me.  They tend to stand right in the center of the car.

A third person joins us, and then everyone moves to take a corner — there’s no “tic tac toe three in a row” going on and the die face theory fails.

Four people — four corners.

Five people — and the die theory becomes right for the first time — but that’s a default result, not a behavioral victory.

One thing I’ve noticed that in groups of elevator people — especially the young between the ages of 14 and 17 — they tend to always bunch up in the middle of the car no matter how many other people are in the elevator.  I don’t know if that’s universal young person behavior, of if that’s just an East Coast thing.

What is your experience riding in an elevator?  Do you always head for a corner?  Or do you generally prefer to take the center spot no matter what?  Does the Die Theory work for you or not?


  1. No, the die theory doesn’t work for me either. I found your scenario above to be true. I also like to practice a mini pilates work out when I’m ALONE in an elevator. I wonder if other people do little mini workouts in the elevator when they are by themselves too?

  2. there really is no point in asking me where I go to stand in an empty elevator – youknow the answer already – I take a corner next to the control panel – even if Mr P is with me – that is where I go. Your fellow INTJ !

  3. About half of the time when I enter an elevator (when I am with Elizabeth), if there are other people there I like force everyone to take part in an experiment to see how they will react. What I do is face the back wall as though that is where the doors are and stare straight ahead at them. When we get to our floor she tells me how everyone else reacted. Predictably, everyone is bewildered by this strange man who entered like that!

  4. Hmm. I don’t really follow the dice theory, and the other people in my building don’t either. In fact this article reminded me of a couple of my elevator pet peeves, namely when we stop at a floor and the waiting people try to charge on to the elevator before letting people out. So annoying!

    1. Absolutely annoying when they box you in without letting you out — and there’s no polite way to get out before the door closes except to push!

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