Book Review: Article on Creativity

New Insights Into (Dis)orderly Decision Making

Title: Physical Order Produces Healthy Choices, Generosity, and Conventionality, Whereas Disorder Produces Creativity

Scientific Journal: Psychological Science 2013, vol. 24, p. 1860-7

Authors: Kathleen D. Vohs, Joseph P. Redden, and Ryan Rahinel.

Place of publication: University of Minnesota, Minnesota, US

Publisher: Sage publications

Date of publication: 1 August 2013

DOI: 10.1177/0956797613480186

Number of pages: 8

The article “Physical Order Produces Healthy Choices, Generosity, and Conventionality, Whereas Disorder Produces Creativity,” by Kathleen Vohs, Joseph Redden, and Ryan Rahinel was published in 2013 and is freely available online. It provides new insights into the domain of decision making, and it gives surprising results on the influence of order and disorder in relation to conventionality and creativity.

In the article three experiments are carried out to test the relation between an orderly physical environment and food choices, generosity and conventionality, and also the relation between a disorderly physical environment and creativity. The researchers hypothesized that physical order would lead to desirable behavior, that physical disorder would lead to increased creativity, and also that physical order affected the participants’ preference for either tradition or novelty.

In the first experiment the participants were requested to choose how much they would want to donate to needy children and were offered a snack, either healthy or unhealthy. The results proved that physical order leads to healthier food choices and greater generosity. In the second experiment the participants were asked to think of ten new ways to use Ping-Pong balls. The results showed that relative disorder leads to increased creativity and breaking away from tradition. In the third experiment the participants were asked to pick out one of three “boosts” for a fruit smoothie. The results pointed out that physical order leads to sticking to conventions, whereas a disorderly environment leads to exploring novelties.

Previous research mainly focused on the effects of physical orderliness on the moral behavior of people, where disorder leads to delinquency and criminality and order leads to good behavior. However, this research focuses on the possible positive outcomes of being exposed to a disorderly environment. It also shows how varying environments can shape behavior.

The authors present their findings using an orderly structure, clearly explaining each step of the procedure and providing pictures to show the orderly and disorderly rooms. For each experiment they explain the method, procedure and results, after which they confirm their findings in a discussion section. In the conclusion, marked as “general discussion,” the authors affirm that they have omitted all obstructive variables, so that the results are reliable. The only debatable point is that in the second experiment the means of calculating creativity is carried out by scorers, who might differ in their judgment.

The article is very intelligible. Even though the subject might require the use of some psychology or sociology terminology, the authors explain the procedures, results and the significance of both in an understandable way. The only prerequisite knowledge the reader needs to possess are the signs and abbreviations used to present the results in a schematic way.

The authors answer the question they set out to answer and confirm their hypothesis, in effect broadening the field of research they concern themselves with, and even opening a new path in the domains of decision making and shaping behavior.

All in all, the experiments were carried out well, and the results presented in an easy to understand way while still maintaining an academic level of research and writing, making it suited for both an experienced and inexperienced audience.

By Riemer van der Hoop

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