When faced with a choice, which stall do you select in a public bathroom? Typically, you’d enter any one that appears reasonably clean and hope for the best, right? But let’s take the guessing game out of this dire dilemma. Little did you know, science can actually help you choose the cleanest stall, statistically speaking. These are the germiest spots in your bathroom—that aren’t your toilet.
Research suggests that you should avoid the middle stalls if possible. Why? When given any slate of equal options, people tend to choose the middle one—a little habit that psychologists call “centrality preference.” Meanwhile, Elite Daily reports, it’s actually the first stall which is the least used meaning it’s the only one you should be using––it’s likely to be the cleanest.
While the centrality preference can apply to a range of choices, it goes for public bathrooms, too. A 1995 paper published in the journal Psychological Science examined the restroom habits of beachgoers in coastal California. After teaming up with a local custodian, psychologist Nicholas Christenfeld tracked how often the toilet paper was changed in each of four stalls for 10 weeks. His results: While 60 percent of finished rolls came from the middle stalls, only 40 percent came from those at the ends. That indicates that far more people used the stalls in the middle than random probability might anticipate. This is how bad it is to take your coffee to the bathroom with you.
A survey from New York Magazine took the analysis a step further by analyzing the preferences of men and women. A majority of both men and women prefer the middle stall, but since the stalls and urinals in the line are “rarely truly identical,” men then show a preference for whatever is closest to the door while women go to what’s furthest away.
Still, just because fewer people use an end stall, that doesn’t necessarily mean it’s cleaner. They may tend to be messier or cleaned less often, so people avoid them—hence the lack of turnover. Nevertheless, it can’t hurt to be just a little more cautious about your stall selection next time. And while you’re at it, make sure you follow these unspoken etiquette rules for using a public restroom.
[Source: Business Insider]