If you’re struggling to keep your space tidy, a recent study suggests that a light dose of anxiety might help you clean up your act.
Researchers at the University of Connecticut presented test participants with a shiny statuette and a list of seven questions to consider about the statue (such as “How old do you think the object is?”). Then, half the participants were told they’d have to present a short speech on the object to an art expert – thereby inducing anxiety.
All the participants were then given a few minutes to ponder the questions, plan their presentation (if they were in that test group), and polish the statuette. The experiment then ended, with the speech-giving group being told they didn’t have to speak after all.
The results were remarkably consistent across both groups. The “relaxed” group that never believed they had to give a speech tended to clean using pretty varied motions. Meanwhile, participants in the “anxiety” group (the speech-givers) all cleaned with repetitive motions, focusing on smaller areas and cleaning much more meticulously.
Remarkably, even participants who didn’t show any perceptible signs of stress still followed the same pattern of cleaning! The researchers behind this study hypothesize that people might engage in repetitive behaviors during stressful situations because it gives them a sense of control in a time of uncertainty.
So, you know. If you ever feel like your room needs cleaning, you could just stress yourself.