Does keeping a messy desk make you more creative?
There is a widespread belief that intelligent and creative people tend to be very messy. There have been a lot of geniuses well-known for being messy, but the question is whether their messiness is inherent in their nature or it is just circumstantial. Maybe geniuses don’t have enough time to clean up because they are too busy with their ideas and work or maybe they simply don’t want to waste time on cleaning.
To find answers to such questions, the University of Minnesota has conducted four studies on the potential connection between creativity and messiness.
In the first study, two groups of people, group A and group B, were given a task to think of new ways of using ping-pong balls. Group A stayed in a messy room, while group B stayed in a tidy room. The results showed that both groups came up with approximately the same number of ideas, but group A’s ideas were deemed more creative.
In the second study, group A was again sent to a messy room and group B to a tidy room, after which both groups were asked to choose between two types of smoothies. One type was labelled “classic” and the other one “new”. The results showed that most people in group A chose the smoothie labelled “new”, and most people in group B the smoothie labelled “classic”.
In the third study, groups A and B again stayed in a messy room and a tidy room respectively. After that, both groups were asked to choose between an apple and a chocolate bar. Most people in group A opted for a chocolate bar, and most people in group A opted for an apple.
In the final study, after getting into their rooms, groups A and B were asked to donate money. The people from group B, who had stayed in a tidy room, donated far more money than those in group A, who had stayed in a messy room.
The researchers concluded that creativity is not the cause of messiness. Instead, tidier environments promote safe and conventional behavior, while messy environments promote a break from traditional thinking.
In a later study, scientists have found out that people who paint in messy rooms are more creative due to more visual stimuli. There were three groups in this experiment. Group A was sent to a messy room, group B to a tidy room, and group C to a tidy room with pictures painted in the messy room. Group C was as creative as group A.
So, if you want to be more creative you don’t need a messy desk, you only need a picture of one.