- Gollwitzer et al
- Some people are more upset when patterns are out of order.
- According to a new study, the more people are annoyed by geometric imperfections, the more they might be prejudiced against other people.
- The research showed a link between a dislike for disorder and judgment against ethnic minorities, obese people, and people with skin conditions.
Does it annoy you if tiles are misaligned in the bathroom? Do these photos drive you round the bend?
If so you’re not alone – in fact there’s a whole Reddit thread /r/MildlyInfuriating dedicated to things that send shivers up people’s spines when the patterns just don’t quite work.
According to a new study, published in the scientific journal Nature Human Behaviour, there could be a link between a dislike for a disorganised bookshelf, and developing prejudices against people.
The researchers from Yale University conducted eight experiments on hundreds of American and Chinese children and adults, which found that those who were more opposed to messy desks and crooked pictures scored higher on discrimination tests.
In the experiments, people were asked about their feelings towards “out-groups” such as ethnic minorities, obese people, drug addicts, and people with skin conditions.
The findings were tweaked to allow for outside factors such as neuroticism and political leanings – and even after this there was an association between being upset by geometric imperfections, and prejudice towards others.
It was measurable in children as young as six, and got stronger the older the participants were.
“The ingredients of prejudice are in place very early in life,” said Carol Sigelman, professor of psychology at George Washington University, who was quoted by The Times newspaper.
“Humans may start out all too ready to judge one another, but how do some forms of human difference become more stigmatising than others, and how do some human perceivers become more prone to stigmatise?”
She added: “The research provides a simple potential explanation for why some people feel uneasy around and dislike people who deviate from societal norms.”
This research fits in with the growing body of research that shows how the physical things and our social behaviour can overlap.
For example, the study cites two other studies, one which says individual differences in sensitivity to physical pain can predict sensitivity to social pain, such as being socially rejected, and another which found that increasing physical warmth can make people feel more connected to each other.
“These physical-social overlaps are paralleled in neural circuitry, tentatively indicating that a common neural basis for pattern deviancy and social deviancy judgments may exist,” the study reads.