Does Your Big Desk Make You Lie?

Smoking cigar at desk

Researchers from Columbia, MIT, and Harvard University seem to think so. Its study, “The Ergonomics of Dishonesty: The Effect of Incidental Posture on Stealing, Cheating and Traffic Violations,” purports that peoples thoughts and actions are directly affected by their posture and size of their physical surroundings. From this they form the idea that sitting in a large desk causes people to be dishonest.

So,what you’re telling me is that:
mathematics equation


Andy Yap, Professor at MIT, went a little further in his research than myself. He explains that,

“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.”

One of its methods of testing was to have people participate in a video-game driving simulation where they were all sitting in seats of varying size and comfort levels. The ones who were in bigger, more comfortable seats “would be more likely to “hit and run” when incentivized to go fast in a video-game driving simulation.” As opposed to the people in the uncomfortable Prius seats who stopped what they were doing to make sure their video game buddies weren’t suffering from a nasty case of whiplash? Clearly they’ve never seen anyone playing “Cruising USA.”

However, part of the study did seem a bit interesting. The study shows a link between expansive posture and dishonest behavior. In a journal of the Association for Psychological Science one of the authors of the study reports, “The research indicates that while individuals may pay very little attention to ordinary and seemingly innocuous shifts in bodily posture, these subtle postural shifts can have tremendous impact on our thoughts, feelings and behavior.”

One of these experiments showed an increase in people who were sitting in large comfortable seating “hushing up” and knowingly accepting overpayment for an experiment, than those who were in smaller seating. A similar phenomenon was observed with people cheating on tests.

All in all, I’d say that the extrapolations made by this study are a far-reaching. They completely ignore that fact that most people who are in large corner offices had to lie and bullshit their way to them. Besides, I don’t even have a desk. I’m writing this thing from my cluttered kitchen table, while sitting on a pillow so my butt doesn’t hurt (as much), and I’m the biggest bullshitter of them all!