Clean my room? But don’t you want me to go to College?

Dirty Dishes

“OMG. Only, like, half of those dishes are mine, anyway.”

A recent study by University of Minnesota researchers shows that the state of your room can have a profound impact on the kind of decisions you make and your decision making process.

According to the abstract, “… 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.”

Focusing generally on the tidiness (or lack thereof) of any given environment, and its subsequent effect on the mind and behavior of any given inhabitant, this study may provide a little insight into at least one reason why teenagers are reluctant to clean their rooms.

Previous research in the field has demonstrated that orderly environments “encourage better behavior than disorderly ones,” but this paper, written by researchers Vohs, Redden, and Rahinel, suggests that a disorderly environment can produce beneficial side effects as well.

Using six different locations, researchers found that people are much more likely to come up with creative uses for everyday objects when in a disorderly environment. Conversely, people working in tidy environments came up with an equal number of ideas as their counterparts, but those ideas tended to be more conventional (i.e. boring). These experiments demonstrate that a person’s thought process is heavily influenced by their environment, and that it is possible to manipulate your environment (by making it tidy or messy) to help produce or stimulate a particular way of thinking.

We are not suggesting that you use this as an excuse to go weeks or months without cleaning your room. But if you feel like you have been stuck coming up with creative topics for your college admission essay, or have been unable to come up with a good idea for a class project or final paper, maybe you should consider brainstorming in a messy room. Just be sure to edit in a clean one.

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