Research has already suggested that people in neat work environments are more likely to opt for a healthy snack than people in cluttered ones. "Messy rooms are, sort of, enabling people to break free from what's expected of them," one researcher from that 2013 study tells NPR. Now a new study out of Cornell University finds a similar effect in kitchens—namely, that people tend to eat more in cluttered ones than orderly ones. "Being in a chaotic environment ... seems to lead people to think, 'Everything else is out of control, so why shouldn't I be?'" says lead author Lenny Vartanian in a press release. To test this, his team introduced 101 women, one at a time, into a messy or tidy kitchen, and asked some to write about a time when they felt in control and others to write about a time when they felt out of control.
The same snacks were available in both kitchens: cookies, crackers, and carrots. Those in messy kitchens who wrote about feeling out of control ate 103 calories' worth of cookies, double what their clean-kitchen counterparts with the same writing assignment ate. Those in the messy kitchens who wrote about being in control ate just 38 calories of cookies. "The chaotic environment had no impact on consumption of crackers or carrots," the researchers write in the study, published this month in Environment and Behavior. While certain practices such as meditation may help get us in an in-control mindset, just picking up after ourselves could go a long way, co-author Brian Wansink tells CTV News. (Guys, meanwhile, overeat in the presence of one type of person in particular.)