Aug 30, 2013

Simple Trick to Boost Creativity

Growing up, my room was a constant disaster zone. Of course, I knew right where everything was. Now that I'm an adult, my work space isn't as bad, but I'm not a picture of neat. Worse, I find myself channeling my mother by nagging my kids to clean up their mess. Turns out, while I might be inspiring them to make healthier choices with their tidy surroundings, I'm also most likely squashing their creativity. Read on for the science.

The Premise: Different Environments Inspire Different Behavior

Researchers from the University of Minnesota  detailed in Psychological Science did three experiments to test the effect of the orderliness or disorderliness of the environment on generosity, healthy snack choices, creativity and preference for classic vs. new.

The Result: Messy Matters

Want to lose weight or be more generous - clean up your space. Participants in the study in orderly spaces chose eat healthier snacks and to donate more money to charity

Want to be more creative - work messy. Those in a disorderly space, with papers strewn about on the table and floor, came up with more creative uses for ping pong balls than their counterparts in a neat, tidy room.

The reasoning behind this seemed to be hinted at in the third experiment that showed people in messy rooms are more open to new labels, whereas those in orderly spaces choose to stick to the traditional.

Read More About It

Interested in reading more info on how environment effects productivity and creativity? Try A Perfect Mess from Eric Abrahamson and David Freedman.

Having recently moved, I have disorder in spades right now. My writing juices should be flowing!

Next time your spouse or boss nags you to clean up, tell them you're busy being creative.


  1. I find the opposite, actually. (although this wasn't true when I was younger) I find it hard to write/be creative in a messy space!

    1. I thought I was that way, too, but it's an interesting study. I wonder if it's the difference between open creativity and directed creativity. When I'm writing, even though it's a creative task, it's a structured activity that I care about. I have a plot outline and a word count goal. The participants in the study were asked to be creative about something silly.


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