A Clean Desk May Help You Work Though Frustrating Tasks

Messy workspaces have their benefits--some research suggests that the clutter makes people more creative. But there's another aspect to the clutter, which may be undermining your ability to persevere through a difficult task.

Messy workspaces have their benefits, some research suggests that the clutter makes people more creative. But there's another aspect to the clutter, according to Boyoun (Grace) Chae and Rui (Juliet) Zhu, which may be undermining your ability to persevere through a difficult task.

The two published their study in the Journal of Consumer Research, which sought to find if a messy or clean environment dictated an individual's self-regulation control. The researchers collected 103 student participants and directed them to sit in a room that featured a clean workspace or in a cluttered room with papers and items strewn about. In a separate room, researchers then asked participants to solve (an unsolvable) geometry puzzle. The researchers timed how long each person spent trying to solve the puzzle as a test to gauge persistence in the face of a frustrating task.

Participants who were placed in the neat environment spent an average of 1,117 seconds on the task, while those who sat in the cluttered space spent an average of 669 seconds on the task. The results show that those working in a clean space may feel unburdened by clutter and more mentally capable to take on a difficult problem. The saying, “A cluttered house is a cluttered head,” comes to mind. Chae and Zhu suggest that the mess “threatened participants’ sense of personal control. Coping with that threat from the physical environment caused a depletion of their mental resources, which in turn led to self-regulatory failure.”

“... although we don’t have data to back this up, we conjecture that a mess of your own creation may affect you even more strongly than a mess that’s been imposed by someone else. A self-created mess can become overwhelming because it serves as evidence that you’re unable to control your environment.”

Their assumptions are based off of some interesting connections in weight loss community that states if people unclutter their physical environment, they're able to regain control over that space and focus on their weight goals. What do you think about their findings? Do these observations mirror your own life?

Read more at Harvard Business Review

Photo Credit: Nicholas Todd../Flickr

Car culture and suburbs grow right-wing populism, claims study

New research links urban planning and political polarization.

Politics & Current Affairs
  • Canadian researchers find that excessive reliance on cars changes political views.
  • Decades of car-centric urban planning normalized unsustainable lifestyles.
  • People who prefer personal comfort elect politicians who represent such views.
Keep reading Show less

How to split the USA into two countries: Red and Blue

Progressive America would be half as big, but twice as populated as its conservative twin.

Image: Dicken Schrader
Strange Maps
  • America's two political tribes have consolidated into 'red' and 'blue' nations, with seemingly irreconcilable differences.
  • Perhaps the best way to stop the infighting is to go for a divorce and give the two nations a country each
  • Based on the UN's partition plan for Israel/Palestine, this proposal provides territorial contiguity and sea access to both 'red' and 'blue' America
Keep reading Show less

NASA astronomer Michelle Thaller on ​the multiple dimensions of space and human sexuality

Science and the squishiness of the human mind. The joys of wearing whatever the hell you want, and so much more.

Flickr / 13winds
Think Again Podcasts
  • Why can't we have a human-sized cat tree?
  • What would happen if you got a spoonful of a neutron star?
  • Why do we insist on dividing our wonderfully complex selves into boring little boxes
Keep reading Show less