Think about the place where you regularly buy your groceries. After you pass through the sliding-glass door, how do you make your way around the premises? Perhaps you believe you take this path due to habit or preference, but odds are you’re nudged in one direction or another by the store’s physical layout. Some supermarket’s make it so that you naturally circle the place in clockwise fashion; others opt for a design that encourages, if not requires, anti-clockwise navigation. Which approach is likelier to produce a happier shopping experience?
This is a topic of ridiculously fierce debate in the industry, and one that may soon be settled by our ever-deeper understanding of the way in which neurotransmitters affect human behavior in subtle ways. A pair of German researchers use just such expertise to make a pro-clockwise argument here:
Most shops guide customers through the store in an anticlockwise direction. This is generally justified by the fact that costumers are for the most part right-handed. However, neurophysiological research suggests a different explanation for this turning preference–-the hormone dopamine, which is responsible for locomotion in space. The higher the dopamine concentration on the left side of the brain, the more consumers’ attention (and consequently their locomotion) is focused on the right side. In a clockwise-orientated shop, customers will therefore frequently glance at the shop’s interior. It has further been suggested that shoppers also have a general orientation towards the walls because of security reasons of the shops as this makes them feel secure; this leads them to notice products on the left-hand side of aisles. Taken together, these two tendencies enable customers to remember more products in a shop with a clockwise layout, which in turn gives them a more positive attitude toward the shop. By contrast, in a store with an anti-clockwise layout, both tendencies concentrate on the right-hand side.
If this take holds water, does that mean the Brits have been right about driving on the left all these years?