How does one contemplate a mess?

Ig Nobel Prize winner Rolf Zwaan looks at published studies about messiness — one of which itself was part of a messy situation — and explains how you might begin making sense of such things:

50 Questions About Messy Rooms and Clean Data
…Not only 20-year-old students hypothesize about the effects of environments on thought; social psychologists do too. My daughter’s hypothesis is straightforward: messy environments are distracting. The social psychologists’ hypotheses take us a little further afield. For example:Messy environments promote stereotyping.
The paper describing research into this hypothesis was co-authored by Diederik Stapel and has been retracted. Another hypothesis is that messy environments promote a longing for simplicity. The paper describing research into this hypothesis was co-authored by Dirk Smeesters and has been retracted.
Now there is a new study on messiness. It is about to be published in Psychological Science and has already received a lot of press coverage. The main findings are claimed to be that neat environments promote giving to charity and healthy eating behavior whereas messy environments promote creativity.
While I was reading the article, many questions arose. Given their obviousness, I’m surprised that these questions did not occur to the researchers who wrote the paper, the reviewers who commented on the manuscript, the editor who accepted the manuscript for publication, and the journalists who wrote breathless news stories about it. So in the rest of this post I’m just going to list these questions. I will not focus on theoretical aspects of the study (or the lack thereof), which would have made the list even longer….[read the entire essay]