Posts Tagged ‘psychology’

Clutter: Creativity:: Cleanliness: Conventionality. Cool.

IMG_8050Two weeks into the Fall semester, and my workspace is a mess already! I tidy up at the end of each term, but it never takes long for the [not-so]comfortably hectic piles to grow, sometimes, it seems, of their accord. Indeed, there are days when I am secretly envious of my colleagues who keep their offices in a constant state of order. I’ve always been this way, and there are times when the mess makes me a little crazy. Yet, there are also times when the mess feels just about right.

Given my ambivalence about the state of my workspace, you can image my delight when I came across a summary of recent research examining – experimentally no less – relations between a tidy (vs messy) workspace and outcome variables like creativity and conventionality. In the press release titled “Tidy Desk or Messy Desk, Each has its Benefits” the current “take away” from the set of studies published to date is that:

  • Messy work spaces stimulate creative solutions to unusual problems
  • Tidy work spaces stimulate conventionality and “doing what’s right”

So maybe that’s why I feel compelled to clean house before I sit down to pay the monthly bills (or clean the kitchen before planning the shopping list, or, you get the idea….)! And now I’ve got a new view on that quirk of mine too, that I really don’t mind the mess at work too much, yet, I really do prefer my home to be neat-and-tidy (despite the fact that it is often a bit of a mess too). It all makes so much sense now. Thanks, Dr. Vohs, for this happy bit of insight.


Daily Prompt: Back to the future

Anachronism — The word that inspired Michelle W’s daily prompt the other day.

Anachronism (noun): an error in chronology; a person or thing that’s chronologically out of place. Write a story in which a person or thing is out of place, or recount a time when you felt out of place.

The moments that come to mind when I think “anachronism” reflect snapshots in time, where a glimpse into the make-believe world of my daughter leaves me struck by the passing of time and technological progress. Some things remain the same when it comes to the make-believe of the very young. Little ones re-play what they see and experience over and over again, presumably to help them gain understanding and awareness and belonging in their surrounds (a developmental process I discuss at length in two posts — Part 1 and Part 2— over at my other blog: In many ways children’s surrounds haven’t changed much: adults go to work, chat with other adults, manage the finances, cook, clean, care for the children. And children play, follow adults through stores or marketplaces, and so on – you can easily imagine this of course. But subtle things change in these daily dramas – things you don’t necessarily expect when you use your own childhood memories as your baseline for comparison.

I became a professor of Psychology before I became a parent. Before becoming a parent, all those developmental milestones, complete with illustrious examples from my own childhood and from research experiences alike were neatly tucked away in my mind, ever ready for class discussion. Once I became a parent, I eagerly awaited the opportunity to see these moments unfold in real-time, in my own home!

I was not disappointed.  My little one grew and changed right one time, allowing me to mentally tick off those first year milestones one after another. For example, on her first birthday, much to my delight, not only did she utter a clear word, but she also demonstrated a clear act of make-believe (oh joy – a sign of symbolic representation, just as Piaget predicted!). But the act gave me pause. Here’s what she did:

She picked up a calculator, held it to her ear, and said plain as day, “hello?”

At some point in her second year, a similarly delightful moment for reflection presented itself. We were playing “store” together (oh what fun – more evidence that her internal scripts were growing and maturing, right on time if not a little early — she was clearly preoperational!) and I was the customer where she was the cashier. With the vividly painted wooden fruit settled nicely on the counter in between us, I reached into my imaginary purse, and with the image of coins and bills in my mind’s eye, I pretended to fiddle with money and then dropped coins into my daughter’s expectant hand. But her response gave me pause. Here’s what she did next, with a slant-eyed, quizzical look:

She pinched her thumb and pointer fingers together and made a swiping motion with her forearm, stating, “here you go.” Then she handed me what must have been a paper receipt.

So much for the age-old example of using a banana for a telephone – telephones don’t look that anymore. And so much for coinage too. When I shop I pay with a debit card, not cash! Silly me.


What do princesses pretend to be, when they play make-believe?

The Effortful Educator

Applying Cognitive Psychology to the Classroom

Conditionally Accepted

a space for scholars on the margins of academia

Midtown Mocha

A smooth blend of cultural happenings and infatuations.


Knitterly thoughts from Louise Zass-Bangham

Damon Ashworth Psychology

Helping people flourish

The Electric Agora

A modern symposium for the digital age

Small Pond Science

Research, teaching, and mentorship in the sciences


My thoughts on public education and other things


I overuse the strikethrough

High Five Literacy and Academic Coaching



Comments and advice for academic authors

When Women Inspire

You can make a positive impact too!


Gauge as Rx'ed

Social Emotional Learning and the Common Core

Tools to integrate SEL with your current teaching practices

Thriving in Thin Air

Setting Out for Everest

Why? Because Science.

Combating Stupidity Since 2012

Sonya Huber

books, essays, etc.

Tell Us a Story

stories about true things

judgmental observer

film, tv, popular culture, higher ed, unicorns