By Robin Poultney, published on July 1, 2002 - last reviewed on June 13, 2012
If, as the saying goes, "the walls have ears," then furnishings speak volumes. Bedrooms and offices reveal key aspects of your personality, according to Sam D. Gosling, Ph.D., a psychology professor at the University of Texas at Austin. Furthermore, these signs are accurately picked up by others, including strangers, at an extremely high rate.
Observers scanned 83 student rooms and 94 office spaces in search of the Big Five personality traits: openness to experience, conscientiousness, emotional stability, extroversion and agreeableness. Observer ratings were then compared with self and peer ratings of the rooms' inhabitants.
A diverse collection of books and magazines, as well as travel souvenirs, betray openness and conscientiousness. Not surprisingly, extroversion and emotional stability were more difficult to pinpoint.
Observers were far more accurate after viewing subjects' bedrooms, which are free of the restrictions imposed on offices. In bedrooms, modest correlations were found between extroversion and clutter, and observers perceived emotional stability in well-lit, airy spaces.
Strangers were more successful than acquaintances in rating openness to experience, as indicated by distinctive decorating such as a bedside light made from a vodka bottle filled with Prozac or an office with a surfboard, according to Gosling.