Find you can’t get much done at home? Now we know why. Researchers at Stanford University…
carried out a number of studies in which they exposed individuals to objects common to the domain of business, such as boardroom tables and briefcases, while another group saw neutral objects such as kites and toothbrushes. They then gave all of the participants tasks designed to measure the degree to which they were in a cooperative or competitive frame of mind.
In every case, participants who were "primed" by seeing the business objects subsequently demonstrated that they were thinking or acting more competitively. The effect was the strongest when they had to respond in situations that were deliberately ambiguous.
"Competitively" meant that when quizzed they finished the word "wa_" with an r, and finished the word c__p___tive as "competitive" rather than "cooperative." But apparently the business objects exercised their influence subliminally:
Participants denied that being exposed to business-related objects had influenced their behavior in any way.
That’s not all. In a variant on a well-known experiment,
Participants were given $10 and asked to decide how much they were willing to share with a partner. The catch was that the partner could refuse any offer perceived to be too low, in which case neither participant would receive anything. While subjects exposed to neutral pictures generally split the money 50-50, only 33 percent of those who looked at business-related objects did, showing that they had become less cooperatively oriented. Results were similar when participants were exposed in the experiment room to actual business-related objects, such as a briefcase and an executive pen, as opposed to a backpack and a wooden pencil.
You can read a fuller account here. To me the implications are clear: no more nerf ball and blue jeans at the office. And for those of us who work at home, this is the month to climb out of our pajamas and unload all that Danish modern.