So it turns out size does matter when it comes to your desk, although it may not matter in the way you originally thought. New research from Berkeley (as well as other universities) has shown that larger desk may lead to more dishonesty in the person sitting at it. Researchers believe this may be linked to posture and not just the desk size, but they don’t deny that a bigger desk does lead to a greater sense of power which might also be a cause.
“Three experiments found consistent evidence that expansive posture, whether posed, or shaped incidentally by one’s desk space or driver’s seat can lead to dishonest behavior.” – The Ergonomics of Dishonesty.
So how did researchers come across this data? The study performed on 71 individuals tested them in different situations, including completing tasks at a desk, driving, and simply holding a pose. Half were forced into a contractive position, the other into an expansive pose. They were then given the opportunity to steal, cheat, or “hit and run” on the driving test. Those in the expansive position were much more likely to lie, cheat, and steal than those who were cramped.
Does sitting in a bigger car seat or at a larger desk really make us morally deprived? Researchers think that posture has more to do with it than the desk itself. When we as humans sit in a larger space we tend to be more assertive and outspoken. Cramped and small spaces are linked to a sense of helplessness and stress. Larger areas and desks reduce stress, and make you feel more confident and willing to take chances. Sitting at a larger desk or in a bigger car seat is actually good for you, provided you don’t let it get to your head.
Will that bigger desk turn you from model employee to evil heartless boss? The short answer is probably not. Power doesn’t seem to corrupt directly, it simply enhances your pre-existing moral fiber. If you were prone to stealing office supplies and backstabbing your coworkers, a promotion will only increase that attitude. If you are a hardworking employee that has always been by the book, it is unlikely that power will turn you evil. As Lincoln said “Nearly all men can stand adversity, but if you want to test a man’s character, give him power.”