Wednesday, August 14, 2013

Do you have a tidy or messy desk?

Vohs et al. have done an interesting experiment that suggests that physical order enhances healthy choices, generosity, and conventionality, while disorder correlates with greater creativity. I don't go with their "novel hypothesis" description, but the results describe my partner and myself rather well (I'm the tidy one). The abstract:
Order and disorder are prevalent in both nature and culture, which suggests that each environ confers advantages for different outcomes. Three experiments tested the novel hypotheses that orderly environments lead people toward tradition and convention, whereas disorderly environments encourage breaking with tradition and convention—and that both settings can alter preferences, choice, and behavior. A first experiment showed that relative to participants in a disorderly room, participants in an orderly room chose healthier snacks and donated more money. A second experiment showed that participants in a disorderly room were more creative than participants in an orderly room. A final experiment showed a predicted crossover effect: Participants in an orderly room preferred an option labeled as classic, but those in a disorderly room preferred an option labeled as new. Whereas prior research on physical settings has shown that orderly settings encourage better behavior than disorderly ones, the current research tells a nuanced story of how different environments suit different outcomes.
Clips from the text:
Being in a clean room seemed to encourage people to do what was expected of them. 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....Being in a messy room led to something that firms, industries, and societies want more of: Creativity...Orderly environments promote convention and healthy choices, which could improve life by helping people follow social norms and boosting well-being. Disorderly environments stimulated creativity, which has widespread importance for culture, business, and the arts.

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