Think Globally; Wait Locally

The New York Times has an entertaining piece on culture and its role in how long people are apt to wait in line.

The article focuses on the new Disney Hong Kong theme park, which has had experienced epic lines thus far; apparently, part of the problem is that Asians are more likely to stand in line than other cultures, resulting in longer lines. (Or, could it also be that Disney simply lets in too many people?)

Here’s an excerpt:

    Ms. Zhou, who has studied the psychology of queuing in Hong Kong, although not at theme parks, said there was a tendency among Asians and others in more collective cultures to compare their situation with those around them. This may make it more likely that they will remain in a line even if it is excessively long.

    Ms. Zhou said this finding was rooted in a somewhat paradoxical observation: that it is the people behind a person in line, rather than in front, that determines the person’s behavior.

    “The likelihood of people giving up and leaving the queue is lower when they see more people behind them,” Ms. Zhou said. “You feel like you are in a better position than the others behind you.”

    By contrast, she said, Americans and others in more individualistic societies make fewer “social comparisons” of this sort. They don’t necessarily feel better that more people are behind them, but feel bad if too many people are in front of them. Lines in these cultures tend to be more self-limiting.

Here’s the full article. Hurry now before the Times locks it down; it looks like they just started “TimesSelect.”

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Author: John Yunker

John co-founded Byte Level Research in 2000 and is author of The Web Globalization Report Card. He also co-founder of Ashland Creek Press.