Large Desks Make People More Dishonest, Likely To Cheat [STUDY]

By iScienceTimes Staff on June 25, 2013 11:35 AM EDT

worker
Large desks and expansive physical environments make people more likely to engage in dishonest behavior, new research finds. (Photo: Flickr: victor1558)

Large physical settings such as oversized desks or large driver's seats can make people more dishonest, according to new research published in the journal Psychological Science.  

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That's because expansive physical environments lead to a feeling of power, which in turn can result in dubious behavior like cheating or engaging in traffic violations.

"In everyday working and living environments, our body postures are incidentally expanded and contracted by our surroundings -- by the seats in our cars, the furniture in and around workspaces, even the hallways in our offices -- and these environments directly influence the propensity of dishonest behavior in our everyday lives," said Andy Yap, a visiting professor at MIT Sloan School of Management who led the research.

The research drew on four studies conducted in the field and in the lab. One lab study showed that subjects in a larger desk tended to cheat more on written tests. A second study showed that drivers in a videogame simulation were more likely to hit and run when sitting in a larger driver's seat.

Yap and his team then took his larger driver's seat test out into the streets of New York. They found that drivers in expansive in more expansive driver's seats were more likely to park illegally.

Yap's research builds on previous studies showing that expansive postures can lead to feelings of power, which can turn into dishonest behavior, just as in the larger desk study. Now this study suggests that our environments can affect our behavior in ways most people probably haven't considered before.

"This is a real concern," said Yap. "Our research shows that office managers should pay attention to the ergonomics of their work spaces. The results suggest that these physical spaces have tangible and real-world impact on our behaviors."

The research is entitled "The Ergonomics of Dishonesty: The Effect of Incidental Posture on Stealing, Cheating, and Traffic Violations."

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