Your messy work desk might be giv­ing off a bad im­pres­sion

The Borneo Post - Nature and health - - Front Page -

NEW RE­SEARCH in the US has found that messy peo­ple may be seen as more neu­rotic and less agree­able than their ti­dier coun­ter­parts. Car­ried out by psy­chol­o­gists at the Uni­ver­sity of Michi­gan, the new study re­cruited around 160 par­tic­i­pants and ran­domly as­signed them to one of three ex­per­i­ments. Dur­ing the ex­per­i­ments par­tic­i­pants were asked to sit in a re­searcher’s of­fice that was clean, or­gan­ised, and un­clut­tered and ei­ther an of­fice that was “some­what messy” or “very” messy.

All of­fices were iden­ti­cal, ex­cept for the level of messi­ness, and in­cluded a va­ri­ety of per­sonal items to sug­gest that it be­longed to a male re­searcher. Af­ter­wards, the par­tic­i­pants were asked to guess the re­searcher’s per­son­al­ity based on the of­fice’s ap­pear­ance us­ing the big five per­son­al­ity traits of ex­tro­ver­sion, agree­able­ness, con­sci­en­tious­ness, neu­roti­cism and open­ness to ex­pe­ri­ence.

The find­ings, pub­lished in the jour­nal Per­son­al­ity and In­di­vid­ual Dif­fer­ences, showed that par­tic­i­pants were more likely to at­tribute one or more neg­a­tive per­son­al­ity traits to the re­searcher who worked in a messy of­fice. Par­tic­i­pants rated the re­searcher who worked in both the some­what or very messy of­fice as less con­sci­en­tious, less agree­able, and more neu­rotic than the re­searcher who worked in the or­gan­ised of­fice.

As high neu­roti­cism, low con­sci­en­tious­ness and low agree­able­ness are po­ten­tially un­de­sir­able qual­i­ties in an em­ployee, keep­ing your desk tidy at work could help give off a bet­ter im­pres­sion. “When there are cues re­lated to less clean­li­ness, or­der, or­gan­i­sa­tion and more clut­ter in an owner’s pri­mary ter­ri­tory, per­ceivers’ as­cribe lower con­sci­en­tious­ness to the owner, whether that owner is a worker in the real world (of­fice), a job-seeker (apart­ment), a stu­dent (bed­room) or a re­searcher at a uni­ver­sity (lab of­fice),” said lead author Ter­rence Hor­gan.

“Once trait in­for­ma­tion about a tar­get be­comes ac­ti­vated in per­ceivers’ minds, ei­ther con­sciously or un­con­sciously, that in­for­ma­tion can sub­se­quently af­fect how they process in­for­ma­tion about, the types of ques­tions they ask of, and how they be­have to­ward the tar­get, pos­si­bly bring­ing out the very trait in­for­ma­tion that they ex­pected to see from the tar­get in the first place,” said study co-author Sarah Dys­zlewski.

Peo­ple may judge those who are messy as be­ing more neu­rotic.

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