We Need More Slobs


A sign in my less-than-orderly office says, “Creativity is not a pretty sight.” And now I feel validated in being a slob.

A new study published in Psychological Science shows that people are more creative sitting in a messy room. ““Disorderly environments seem to inspire breaking free of tradition, which can produce fresh insights. Orderly environments, in contrast, encourage convention and playing it safe.”

48 university students were asked to come up with 10 unconventional uses for ping-pong balls. Half were situated in a neatly-organized room, half in a messy room. The ideas were scored from “not at all creative” to “very creative.” The two groups came up with as many ideas, but the ideas from the messy-room students were more innovative.

Another study, though, shows that people in neat environments tend to be more thoughtful and more prone to make healthy choices and follow social norms. In other words: Boooring!

I’m wondering: what did Jesus’ carpenter shop look like? My instinct is to picture it as well organized, with every tool in its place and all sawdust swept up. But maybe Jesus didn’t care about neatness–a purely temporal thing. He’d rather spend his time on more important things. Just wondering.

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