Messy desks in the office can actually lead employees to think more clearly, say researchers
- Being surrounded by mess forces people to 'simplify' thoughts
- People make clear, simple choices at messy desks
- Effect works less on liberals, who are less worried about mess
Last updated at 8:53 AM on 19th January 2012
A messy desk can actually lead people towards clearer thinking, say researchers from Germany.
The researchers found in a series of linked studies - using a messy desk and a messy shop front - that people actually thought more clearly when all around was chaos, as they sought to simplify the tasks at hand.
Visual and mental clutter forces human beings to focus and think more clearly.
Famous thinkers and writers such as Albert Einstein (pictured) and Roald Dahl have been notorious for their untidy desks.
'Messy desks may not be as detrimental as they appear to be, as the problem-solving approaches they seem to cause can boost work efficiency or enhance employees' creativity in problem solving,' say the authors.
Oddly, the effect seems to work most on conservatives - political liberals are less liable to be worried about mess in the first place, say the researchers.
'Business and government managers often promote 'clean desk' policies to avoid disorganized offices and messy desks, for the purpose of boosting work efficiency and productivity,' write lead Jia Liu of the University of Groningen in a paper published in the Journal of Consumer Research.
'This practice is based on the conventional wisdom that a disorganized and messy environment can clutter one's mind and complicate one's judgments.'
'However, not all evidence supports this conventional link between a messy environment and a messy mind.'
The scientists tested people's response in various 'messy' environments - including a messy shop front, a disorganized desk, and even a work environment where a language task 'reminded' people of messiness.
The authors found in the series of six studies tended towards simplicity in their thinking.
'They categorized products in a simpler manner, were willing to pay more for a t-shirt that depicts a simple-looking picture, and sought less variety in their choices,' said the researchers.
Oddly, the effect seems to be more profound dependent on your politics - because liberals, say the researchers, are generally less concerned about being disorganised.
'Specifically, conservatives, when confronted with a messy environment (compared to a clean environment), were willing to pay more for a t-shirt with a simple-looking picture. Liberals' willingness to pay for this shirt was not affected by messiness,' the authors explain.