Could your messy bedroom be making you smarter?
Slobs rejoice! New studies from the University of Minnesota, published in the journal Psychological Science, have found living in a messy room may make you more intelligent and creative - and a local creativity expert agrees there's something in it.
The study discovered when people placed in messy rooms and tidy rooms were asked to come up with new uses for a ping pong ball, although both messy and tidy people generated the same number of ideas, participants who were situated in messy rooms came up with more interesting and creative ideas than those from clean rooms.
"Being in a messy room led to something that firms, industries and societies want more of: creativity, " says psychological scientist Kathleen Voh.
Voh says people living in messy rooms are more likely to break free of tradition and provide fresh insights, "orderly environments, in contrast, encourage convention and playing it safe."
Steve Jobs, Albert Einstein and Mark Twain all apparently had very messy work spaces. Einstein himself said: "If a cluttered desk is a sign of a cluttered mind, then what are we to think of an empty desk?"
Mike Hutcheson, former managing director at Saatchi & Saatchi and author of Kick Start your Creativity says "I read the study and took it straight home to my wife to say 'see it is true'".
He says at Saatchi & Saatchi most of the creative team's desks looked as though "a Warehouse Stationery truck had crashed and spilled its contents everywhere," and the one tidy desk belonged to the accountant at the firm.
Hutcheson believes a messy desk is reflective of how the mind works: "A creative mind is a curious mind. I am constantly finding interesting articles on various sites, printing them off and leaving them all over my desk."
He notes the example of an exercise at the zoo, where people were spilt into teams. He says some teams sat down straight away, appointed a leader, made lists, were very organised but came up with very few ideas. Other groups were a disorganised mess, wandered off, were late returning, had to be called back but had come up with a heap of new ideas, even if they were impractical ones.
As a result, he suggests it is always a good idea to have a mix of personality types in a team for balance: messy and creative types to come up with new ideas, and the tidy, more practical types who will make them work.
Voh also notes in the study that people in tidy environments were more likely to make the "right decisions".
For example, when participants were given the choice between an apple and a chocolate bar, those in tidy rooms invariably chose the apple, compared with those in messy rooms who chose the chocolate bar.
When participants were asked to donate money to charity, those in tidy rooms were more inclined than those in messy rooms to donate more of their own money.
Voh says being in a clean room seemed to encourage people to do what was expected of them.