Most people know that awkward feeling when you shuffle into an elevator with other people and try not to make eye contact.
But new research suggests it may be down to a subconscious power struggle being played out as you make your way up or down.
A study found that people decide where they stand based on a micro social hierarchy, established within seconds of entering the lift.
Rebekah Rousi, a Ph.D. student in cognitive science, conducted an ethnographic study of elevator behaviour in two of the tallest office buildings in Adelaide, Australia.
As part of her research, she took a total of 30 lift rides in the two buildings, and discovered there was an established order to where people tended stand.
In a blog for Ethnography Matters, she writes that more senior men seemed to direct themselves towards the back of the elevator cabins.
She said: 'In front of them were younger men, and in front of them were women of all ages.'
She also noticed there was a difference in where people directed their gaze half way through the ride.
'Men watched the monitors, looked in the side mirrors (in one building) to see themselves, and in the door mirrors (of the other building) to also watch others.
'Women would watch the monitors and avoid eye contact with other users (unless in conversation) and the mirrors,' she writes.
The doctorate student concluded it could be that people who are shyer stand toward the front, where they can't see other passengers, whereas bolder people stand in the back, where they have a view of everyone else.