Public restrooms are a brutal necessity. Whether it’s a long car ride or merely a shopping trip, you’re going to have to use one at some point. So how can you pick the cleanest bathroom stall in a place like this?
Well, go against your instincts. According to research, the middle stalls are the dirtiest. Studies show that when people are given several equally good (or equally revolting) options, people tend to choose the middle one. This is what psychologists call the “centrality preference.”
And what that means for you is that the side stalls are probably a little bit cleaner than the ones in the middle… but we’re not promising potpourri. If you’re not sure this research can really be applied to bathrooms, you’d be wrong. Psychologists have produced research that shows the centrality preference definitely applies to which stall you’ll choose.
According to a 1995 paper published in the journal Psychological Science, psychologist Nicholas Christenfeld detailed a number of short experiments that focused on the centrality preference. One of them examined the bathroom habits of people in a public bathroom in California. The result? Sixty percent of finished rolls of toilet paper came from middle stalls, where only 40 percent of finished rolls of toilet paper came from the ends.
But we can narrow down your stall choosing even further. According to further research, women tend to gravitate towards stalls farthest away from the bathroom door. So your best bet is the first stall in the bathroom. It seems unlikely, but that’s what the research says.
For guys, the urinals (or stalls) furthest from the door are your best bet. Most men gravitate towards the first urinal in the bathroom, making it (and the middle ones, of course) the germiest option.
So now you can go ahead and sit (instead of squat) with relative comfort. Thanks, science.