The study, published in the journal Environment and Behavior earlier this month, found that environments overwhelmed by clutter and chaos can make us stressed, and leave us much more likely to indulge in unhealthy snacks.
Led by Lenny Vartanian, associate professor of psychology at the University of New South Wales, the research team enlisted 101 women to participate in the test. Half of the participants were instructed to wait in a kitchen piled-high with dirty dishes and various documents, while the other half were placed in a tidy and organised kitchen environment.
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Both groups of participants were asked to wait next to a plate of cookies, as well as more healthy option displaying crackers and carrots, to which they were told they could help themselves. The phone was scheduled to ring a number of times throughout the 10-minute waiting period to increase the chaos in the kitchen.
Before entering the room, a select group of participants were ask to note a time when they felt they lacked control over their lives, while the rest were ask to note a time when their lives were under control.
The latter group entered the messy kitchen feeling much more in control than their counterparts, and also ate around 100 calories less, according to the study.
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Participants who were asked to write about a more stressful time in their lives ate double the amount of cookies consumed by the other group.
“Being in a chaotic environment and feeling out of control is bad for diets,” said Vartanian. “It seems to lead people to think, ‘Everything else is out of control, so why shouldn’t I be?’”
Researchers predict that a repeat study using all-male participants would produce similar results.
Image via Shutterstock.