A reader proposes three nudges for a better bar

Reader Phil thinks the bar scene in the Big Apple bites. But instead of just griping, the former physics major with a passion for tackling global poverty and development, offers three potential nudges to improve mingling.

I’ve become frustrated with the bar scene in New York City — everyone goes out professing the intention to meet new people (especially the opposite sex) but usually ends up standing with friends in the corner scoping out the scene.

First off, bars are actually terrible places to meet people. The combination of the loud music, too cool attitude and excessive crowds are social sandpaper. It got me thinking how I would build a better bar and utilize nudges to encourage socialization. Some thoughts:

1) Privacy-averse seating — (The) easiest places to meet people are bars with communal seating. It provides a little nudge that you are supposed to talk to your neighbors — and it definitely works. For my fellow New Yorkers, check out Sake Bar Satsko in the East Village with its cramped tables and friendly attitude. Even better than communal seating, privacy-averse seating (circles, nooks) is even better.

2) Limit crowds + limit egress – Sounds like a fire code violation, but the ability to hold the crowd in a room steady over a longer period of time definitely nudges socialization. This is one of the reasons house parties are always more social than bars — people stick around and can interact socially over the course of the night. In bars this could work by making people pay for admission over a time period with an open bar.

3) Introduction nudges — People routinely have great nights out on Halloween — when they are forced to reveal an element of their personality with costumes. Playing off this, some friends and I started wearing name tags. It gave the other bar patrons a nudge that we were fun, social and might want to be approached. It also gave them material with which to approach us with because they could make a joke about the name tag. Still need to do a randomized trial, but I think we met more people those nights.

For more details on these nudges, read Phil’s extended post at his blog, The Invisible Hand in Your Pants.

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