The science of working with a clean desk

If a cluttered desk is a sign of a cluttered mind,” Albert Einstein once cracked, “of what, then, is an empty desk a sign?”

The answer, according to psychology Professor Sabine Kastner, may be clear thinking. In 20 years of research on attention, Kastner has found that, despite the protests of Einstein, Steve Jobs, and other messy creative thinkers, visual clutter competes with our brain’s ability to pay attention and tires out our cognitive functions over time.

Kastner’s studies found that the brain may not be good at blocking clutter. When she asked subjects to focus on one object while introducing another object into their visual field, Kastner detected a fuzzy version of that second object in the brain scan. In any environment, she concluded, there is both a “push” toward desired objects and a “pull” from objects competing for attention. The more objects in the visual field, the harder the brain has to work to filter them out, causing it to tire over time and reducing its ability to function.

Read the full article from this Princeton Professor here