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Researchers Find Out Best Way to Get Drinks at a Bar

Update Date: Sep 21, 2013 01:39 AM EDT
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In a crowded bar, it may be hard to get a drink. Now scientists have identified the key elements of body language that can increase your chances of being served before everyone else.

A research team from Germany's Bielfeld University learnt that a simple wave in a human bartender's general direction is not enough to get their attention. A robot called James, has been taught to recognize people waiting to be served a drink at a bar as part of an EU-funded project to create more socially-intelligent robots.

The researchers used a bar because the interaction was limited but complex enough to pose significant technical demands on the robot.

Professor Jan de Ruiter said the research also shed light on the most effective way to get served at a crowded bar. The researchers, whose work is published in the journal Frontiers in Psychology, analyzed 105 attempts to order drinks at nightclubs in Bielefeld and Herford in Germany and Edinburgh in Scotland.

Researchers found nine out of 10 thirsty customers adopted the subtle approach of deliberately facing the bar, which is the most successful for getting noticed and served, according to the study.

By contrast, only one in 15 customers looked at their wallets to signal that they would like to place an order while fewer than one in 25 customers gestured at the bartender.

Dr Sebastian Loth, lead author of the study and a psychologist at Bielefeld University, said: "Effectively, the customers identify themselves as ordering and non-ordering people through their behaviour.

"Two signals are necessary and together form the sufficient set of signals for identifying the intention to place an order.

"First, the customers position themselves directly at the bar and, secondly, look at the bar/bartender.

"If one of these signals was absent, the participants judged the customers as not bidding for attention. This provided a clear indication that both signals are necessary for bidding for attention."

Those not needing to quench their thirst subconsciously maintained a small distance to the bar and turned away from it by chatting to friends instead, signaling to staff that they did not want service, the scientists said.

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