Consider This Before You Clean Up Your Room (Messy Rooms Encourage Creativity)

messy desk

Want to increase your creativity? Continue reading.

Sometimes, we prefer convention such as order, rules, and tradition. Other times, we prefer to break free from convention. Both order and disorder are present in nature and culture.

Physical order has often been linked to morality and correctness, whereas disorder has been linked to deviations and even destructrive behaviours. The perception of order or disorder may trigger different mind-sets that, in turn, stimulate different behaviours (Vohs et al., 2013).

Vohs and colleagues (2013) conducted three experiments to test how orderly versus disorderly environments influence people’s preferences, choice, and behaviour.

The authors hypothesized that orderly environments would encourage adherence to social convention (and conservatism), whereas disorderly environments would encourage people to seek novelty and unconventional routes.

In all of the three experiments, the participants were randomly assigned to either an orderly or an disorderly environment or setting. In the first experiment, 34 participants were presented with an opportunity to donate to charity.

Upon exiting, the participants were allowed to take an apple or a chocolate bar. The results of this experiment showed that participants in an orderly room made healthier choices and donated more money, compared to participants in a disorderly room.

In the second experiment, 48 participants were told to complete the Alternative Uses Task. The participants had to image that a company wanted to create new uses for the ping-pong balls that it manufactured.

They were instructed to list 10 new uses for the ping-pong balls. The results of this experiment showed that participants in disorderly rooms were more creative than participants in orderly rooms.

In the third experiment, 188 participants were told that the study concerned preferences for menu items. They were then told to choose between three fruit smoothies with different boosts (health, wellness, or vitamin). The researchers added a star with the word new and one with the word classic to the health-boost smoothie.

The results of this experiment showed that the participants in the orderly room preferred the option labeled as classic, whereas those in the disorderly room preferred the option labeled as new.

Image: Mike McCune
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