A Cluttered Kitchen Can Nudge Us To Overeat, Study Finds : The Salt Earlier research found that people in a messy work area were less likely to choose healthy snacks. Now a study hints that a cluttered kitchen might make those who feel out of control eat more sweets.

A Cluttered Kitchen Can Nudge Us To Overeat, Study Finds

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You know, Mary Louise, I'm a little envious. I've noticed that your desk in the office over there is really, really clean. Your work space here in the studio is really clean. Are you a clean freak? Like, is this important to you all the time?


I'm going to take exception to the freak part of that. But yeah, OK, fine - I am 100 percent guilty as charged.


KELLY: Yeah.

GREENE: Is your kitchen this clean, too?

KELLY: Do I even want to know why you're asking me this...

GREENE: Yeah...

KELLY: ...David?

GREENE: Yeah, yeah, no, it's important...


GREENE: ...Because we're about to listen to a piece by our colleague Allison Aubrey, who actually says the cleanliness of your kitchen tells us something about your eating habits.

ALLISON AUBREY, BYLINE: When you walked into your kitchen this morning, was it neat and tidy, or did it look like this?

BRIAN WANSINK: There's mail stacked on the counter. There are dirty dishes, newspapers that were on the edge of the table. The place was a mess.

AUBREY: That's Brian Wansink of Cornell University, describing the kitchen that he used in his latest experiment. Wansink studies how our environments influence our habits. And he had a hunch that a cluttered kitchen might prompt us to overeat, so he decided to test it.

WANSINK: We brought 100 people into kitchens just one at a time.

AUBREY: And had them hang out with a plate full of cookies and crackers. Now, half the people were brought into that messy kitchen that Wansink just described. The other half came into a very tidy kitchen. They were all told to eat as much as they wanted and given a writing assignment to complete aimed at expressing how they felt. What Wansink found is that when people wrote about feeling out of control and were in a messy kitchen, they ate more - a lot more than those who were stressed but in a neat kitchen.

WANSINK: And one of the things we found that if people were in a messy kitchen, they ended up eating about 40 percent more calories of snacks than people in an uncluttered, nonchaotic kitchen.

AUBREY: Which suggests that our environments can be a potent force in shaping the way we eat.

WANSINK: We all think we are smarter than the environment around us. And that's what makes these external cues so powerful.

AUBREY: They're nudging our behaviors in ways we're not even aware of. So how might these findings translate into a messy desk? After all, there's lots of snacking in offices.

KATHLEEN VOHS: This study makes a lot of connections to workplace environment.

AUBREY: Kathleen Vohs of the University of Minnesota has studied how messy desks can influence our behavior.

VOHS: Messy rooms are sort of enabling people to break free from what's expected of them.

AUBREY: And that can lead to more unhealthy snacking. Allison Aubrey, NPR News.

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