Science Suggests: People who are messy are more intelligent. 

 May 23, 2020

You might be one of those people who struggle to keep things tidy. With our culture highly favoring organization and tidiness, sometimes associated with moral righteousness and trust, being a messy person can be a problem.

However, while being disorganized can be a problem in your professional life, new studies are showing how messiness incentivizes creativity and innovation.

To learn more about the link between messy people and creativity or if you are one of those people who are constantly told off for being disorganized, keep reading this article and find out why some messiness can be good for you (and those around you).

The Experiment

Despite the classic negative view on messiness, nowadays, science suggests that messy people tend to run away from conventions and grab new, undiscovered directions.

 This can be a big advantage, especially in today's world. Lately, the hypothesis of messy people being characterized by higher IQs or increased levels of creativity has been tested by several studies, with astonishing results.

One of them involved almost 200 adults, asked to visit laboratory rooms that either looked tidy (with everything orderly stacked) or messy (with papers and books all over the place).

Each participant was assigned a room where he or she was given a menu from a deli offering fruit smoothies.

The smoothies were special, and we described as coming with a "boost": either health, vitamin, or wellness related.

During the study, two versions of the same menu were used. One version had the word "classic" associated with the health boost option, while the second version used the word "new" in association with the health boost.

Subjects could choose what they preferred, resulting in people ordering from the tidy room choosing the "classic" health boost more often than the "new" one.

On the other hand, people in the messy room tended to choose the "new" health boost. In simpler words, people in the tidy room tend to prefer convention over innovation, while the opposite was true in a messy environment.

The study described seemed to shade new light into the current perception of messiness, but the researchers did not find the results satisfying enough to find a correlation between messiness and increased creativity. For this reason, another study was conducted.

This time, less than 50 participants were chosen and again, brought either to messy or tidy rooms. The subjects were asked to think and write down new uses of Ping-Pong balls for a Ping-Pong factory.

To assess the degree of creativity of the answers provided, an independent judge was involved in the study.

Un-innovative ideas such as using ping pong balls for beer pong were considered of low creativity, while other ideas, such as using Ping Pong balls as ice cube trays or to attach them to chair legs to prevent floors from scratching were rated high in creativity.

As it was to expect, people, regardless of the room they were in, came up with the same number of ideas on average. This reflected that everybody in the test group put a similar amount of effort into the task.

However, people in the messy room resulted to be more creative, confirming the results of the previous study.

In numbers, the ideas of people writing from the messy room were 28% more creative than the ideas coming from the subjects writing from the tidy room.

Keep in mind that this is only one of several studies on the link between messiness and creativity, which has recently gained traction in the scientific world.

The Bottom line

Of course, such findings have practical implications. Remember the trend of minimalist design and its application in contemporary office spaces?

Well, we might have to reconsider such spaces, as creative employees and co-workers can help innovate and incentivize a company's growth.

Indeed, with today's world being increasingly focused on creativity and innovation, we all need a bit of mess in our life. ​

What these results are showing is that in a world where innovation is more than needed, moving from conventional clean spaces to more creative spaces that might help inspiration flow can be extremely beneficial.

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