It is a beautiful autumn day at Muhlenberg. We are halfway through the semester, and I’m leisurely walking to class. It’s a normal Wednesday, nothing out of the ordinary. At least I thought. I approached my classroom, pulled open the door and headed to my seat, when complete horror struck my eyes. Nothing has ever sent shivers down my spine more than what I had found. This was something diabolical, vicious, hysterical, murderous almost! Someone was sitting in my seat. My seat! My seat which is assigned to me but not technically assigned but everyone knows it’s assigned because they sit in their assigned seat too. I mean, I’ve been sitting in this seat since the first day of class, it is my spot! Why in the world would someone do such a horrible thing to me?
While it may not seem like a big deal, a change in seating completely messes me up. Actually, it messes most people up. Humans are creatures of habit, and while some change is necessary, consistency is key. Staying consistent helps us to create an environment which is comfortable and trusting. Interestingly enough, several articles cite a study that states the reasons behind why myself and many others like to sit in the same seat every class. It is something called environmental psychology, which describes the connection between people and their environment, and how we can use that relationship to our advantage. What can we do to improve our relationship with our surroundings? These are all questions that environmental psychologists try to answer. The way we as humans interact with what is around us plays into our emotions and stress levels. So when something is unbalanced in our environment, it completely throws us off.
Looking further into environmental psychology, there is something called territoriality. When you sit in the same seat, not only are you interacting with your environment, but you are also creating a personal territory. You do this unconsciously for many reasons, but mostly this helps you control the environment around you, especially if you feel out of place, which then helps you achieve goals with little interference. Studies have observed the behavior of college students and found that most will sit in the same seat every day, which acclimated them to the class, bettering their overall performance in the course. In fact, picking their seat and sitting in it each day helped relieve the students in the study of any stress or anxiety that could come from the class. So when someone sits in your seat- in your “territory” so to say– it makes sense that it throws you off. You’ve grown accustomed to that spot and therefore have a sense of comfort when sitting in it.
So with all that being said, to those who have sat in someone else’s seat before, stop. Just sit in your real seat. Do not try to mix things up because you are potentially ruining someone’s entire mindset and performance in the class, and you’ll probably mess yours up too. Plus, please know if you steal someone’s seat they will be glaring at you for the entirety of class and will get there next time incredibly early to get their original seat back. Totally not speaking from experience. Now that it is the week of Halloween, though, if you want to completely and terribly horrify someone, sitting in their seat will definitely spook them.