Clean or messy desk?

People in tidy work environments show more generosity and healthier food choices, while those in messy environments are more willing to be creative and take risks, according to a University of Minnesota study.

Do you prefer to work at a tidy desk with everything arranged just so? Congratulations – you’re probably a healthy eater, generous with your cash, and good at following rules.

But if you’ve got a cluttered desk piled with magazines, Post-its and paperwork, take heart – you might be a creative thinker and an idea machine.

The results come from a study published in the journal Psychological Science, in which researchers at the University of Minnesota designed a series of experiments to test the effects of an orderly or disorderly work environment on people’s behavior.

Specifically, said lead researcher Kathleen Vohs, a consumer psychologist and professor of marketing at the University of Minnesota Carlson School of Management, they wanted to see if there were any positive effects of working in a messy environment.

Previous studies have shown that cleanliness promotes good behavior, such as not committing crimes and displaying generosity.

“If a clean environment is all about doing what’s expected, then what does it mean to be doing things people don’t expect of you?” Vohs said. “That sounded like a loose definition of innovation and creativity.”

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