Physical order produces healthy choices, generosity, and conventionality, whereas disorder produces creativity

Psychol Sci. 2013 Sep;24(9):1860-7. doi: 10.1177/0956797613480186. Epub 2013 Aug 1.


Order and disorder are prevalent in both nature and culture, which suggests that each environ confers advantages for different outcomes. Three experiments tested the novel hypotheses that 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. Experiment 1 showed that relative to participants in a disorderly room, participants in an orderly room chose healthier snacks and donated more money. Experiment 2 showed that participants in a disorderly room were more creative than participants in an orderly room. Experiment 3 showed a predicted crossover effect: Participants in an orderly room preferred an option labeled as classic, but those in a disorderly room preferred an option labeled as new. Whereas prior research on physical settings has shown that orderly settings encourage better behavior than disorderly ones, the current research tells a nuanced story of how different environments suit different outcomes.

Keywords: creativity; decision making; environmental effects.

Publication types

  • Randomized Controlled Trial

MeSH terms

  • Adult
  • Altruism*
  • Choice Behavior / physiology*
  • Creativity*
  • Decision Making / physiology
  • Environment
  • Gift Giving
  • Health Behavior*
  • Humans
  • Personal Satisfaction*