Featured Research

from universities, journals, and other organizations

Tidy desk or messy desk? Each has its benefits

Date:
August 6, 2013
Source:
Association for Psychological Science
Summary:
Working at a clean and prim desk may promote healthy eating, generosity, and conventionality, according to new research. But, the research also shows that a messy desk may confer its own benefits, promoting creative thinking and stimulating new ideas.

Working at a clean and prim desk may promote healthy eating, generosity, and conventionality, according to new research. But, the research also shows that a messy desk may confer its own benefits, promoting creative thinking and stimulating new ideas.

The new studies, conducted by psychological scientist Kathleen Vohs and her fellow researchers at the University of Minnesota are published in Psychological Science, a journal of the Association for Psychological Science.

"Prior work has found that a clean setting leads people to do good things: Not engage in crime, not litter, and show more generosity," Vohs explains. "We found, however, that you can get really valuable outcomes from being in a messy setting."

In the first of several experiments, participants were asked to fill out some questionnaires in an office. Some completed the task in a clean and orderly office, while others did so in an unkempt one -- papers were strewn about, and office supplies were cluttered here and there.

Afterward, the participants were presented with the opportunity to donate to a charity, and they were allowed to take a snack of chocolate or an apple on their way out.

Being in a clean room seemed to encourage people to do what was expected of them, Vohs explains. Compared with participants in the messy room, they donated more of their own money to charity and were more likely to choose the apple over the candy bar.

But the researchers hypothesized that messiness might have its virtues as well. In another experiment, participants were asked to come up with new uses for ping pong balls.

Overall, participants in the messy room generated the same number of ideas for new uses as their clean-room counterparts. But their ideas were rated as more interesting and creative when evaluated by impartial judges.

"Being in a messy room led to something that firms, industries, and societies want more of: Creativity," says Vohs.

The researchers also found that when participants were given a choice between a new product and an established one, those in the messy room were more likely to prefer the novel one -- a signal that being in a disorderly environment stimulates a release from conventionality. Whereas participants in a tidy room preferred the established product over the new one.

"Disorderly environments seem to inspire breaking free of tradition, which can produce fresh insights," Vohs concludes. "Orderly environments, in contrast, encourage convention and playing it safe."

Surprisingly, the specific physical location didn't seem to matter: "We used 6 different locations in our paper -- the specifics of the rooms were not important. Just making that environment tidy or unkempt made a whopping difference in people's behavior," says Vohs.

The researchers are continuing to investigate whether these effects might even transfer to a virtual environment: the Internet. Preliminary findings suggest that the tidiness of a webpage predicts the same kind of behaviors.

These preliminary data, coupled with the findings just published, are especially intriguing because of their broad relevance:

"We are all exposed to various kinds of settings, such as in our office space, our homes, our cars, even on the Internet," Vohs observes. "Whether you have control over the tidiness of the environment or not, you are exposed to it and our research shows it can affect you."

Co-authors on this research include Joseph Redden and Ryan Rahinel of the University of Minnesota. Redden discusses the new research in this video from the Carlson School of Management of the University of Minnesota.


Story Source:

The above story is based on materials provided by Association for Psychological Science. Note: Materials may be edited for content and length.


Journal Reference:

  1. K. D. Vohs, J. P. Redden, R. Rahinel. Physical Order Produces Healthy Choices, Generosity, and Conventionality, Whereas Disorder Produces Creativity. Psychological Science, 2013; DOI: 10.1177/0956797613480186

Cite This Page:

Association for Psychological Science. "Tidy desk or messy desk? Each has its benefits." ScienceDaily. ScienceDaily, 6 August 2013. <www.sciencedaily.com/releases/2013/08/130806091817.htm>.
Association for Psychological Science. (2013, August 6). Tidy desk or messy desk? Each has its benefits. ScienceDaily. Retrieved October 1, 2014 from www.sciencedaily.com/releases/2013/08/130806091817.htm
Association for Psychological Science. "Tidy desk or messy desk? Each has its benefits." ScienceDaily. www.sciencedaily.com/releases/2013/08/130806091817.htm (accessed October 1, 2014).

Share This



More Mind & Brain News

Wednesday, October 1, 2014

Featured Research

from universities, journals, and other organizations


Featured Videos

from AP, Reuters, AFP, and other news services

Pregnancy Spacing Could Have Big Impact On Autism Risks

Pregnancy Spacing Could Have Big Impact On Autism Risks

Newsy (Oct. 1, 2014) A new study says children born less than one year and more than five years after a sibling can have an increased risk for autism. Video provided by Newsy
Powered by NewsLook.com
Stopping School Violence

Stopping School Violence

Ivanhoe (Oct. 1, 2014) A trauma doctor steps out of the hospital and into the classroom to teach kids how to calmly solve conflicts, avoiding a trip to the ER. Video provided by Ivanhoe
Powered by NewsLook.com
Pineal Cysts: Debilitating Pain

Pineal Cysts: Debilitating Pain

Ivanhoe (Oct. 1, 2014) A tiny cyst in the brain that can cause debilitating symptoms like chronic headaches and insomnia, and the doctor who performs the delicate surgery to remove them. Video provided by Ivanhoe
Powered by NewsLook.com
Burning Away Brain Tumors

Burning Away Brain Tumors

Ivanhoe (Oct. 1, 2014) Doctors are 'cooking' brain tumors. Hear how this new laser-heat procedure cuts down on recovery time. Video provided by Ivanhoe
Powered by NewsLook.com

Search ScienceDaily

Number of stories in archives: 140,361

Find with keyword(s):
Enter a keyword or phrase to search ScienceDaily for related topics and research stories.

Save/Print:
Share:

Breaking News:

Strange & Offbeat Stories


Health & Medicine

Mind & Brain

Living & Well

In Other News

... from NewsDaily.com

Science News

Health News

Environment News

Technology News



Save/Print:
Share:

Free Subscriptions


Get the latest science news with ScienceDaily's free email newsletters, updated daily and weekly. Or view hourly updated newsfeeds in your RSS reader:

Get Social & Mobile


Keep up to date with the latest news from ScienceDaily via social networks and mobile apps:

Have Feedback?


Tell us what you think of ScienceDaily -- we welcome both positive and negative comments. Have any problems using the site? Questions?
Mobile: iPhone Android Web
Follow: Facebook Twitter Google+
Subscribe: RSS Feeds Email Newsletters
Latest Headlines Health & Medicine Mind & Brain Space & Time Matter & Energy Computers & Math Plants & Animals Earth & Climate Fossils & Ruins