The Only Stall You Should Be Using In A Public Restroom

Many of us try our best to avoid using public restrooms. You never quite know what you'll find. In an effort to maintain cleanliness, we do our best to try and pick the cleanest stall with the lowest risk of stumbling upon something gross. But in a row of stalls that look identical to one another, which do you pick? According to research, human psychology plays a large role in our preference choices and when given an assortment of similar items, studies indicate that people tend to choose those in the center. Therefore, it's the middle bathroom stall that gets the most amount of action... so to speak.

According to Business Insider, a study published in the journalĀ Psychological Science examined the behaviors of local beachgoers in one California public restroom. Over the course of roughly two and a half months, the study monitored how quickly toilet paper ran out across four stalls in order to determine which of the stalls was most frequently used. Turns out, 60 percent of empty rolls were found to be located in the middle stalls while only 40 percent of rolls needed changing in the end stalls. Even more interesting, in a New York Magazine survey, this preference for the middle stall proved true across both men and women (via CleanLink).

Can stall selection reduce your chance of contracting germs?

So why do we tend to gravitate towards the middle stall over the others? Scientists say it's due to what's called "the centrality preference" in humans. A study published in The Journal of General Psychology provided participants with three separate tasks to complete where they were asked to select one item out of a collection of those items. These categories included highlighters, chairs, and a collage of three posters. In every scenario, the vast majority selected the middle option rather than those placed at either end, concluding that our focus of attention tends to lean towards centrality.

But does your stall selection really reduce your chances of contracting germs? You'll be relieved to know that Jack Gilbert, a microbiologist at Argonne National Laboratory in Illinois says there's little to worry about when it comes to the cleanliness of public bathrooms. In order to thrive, bacteria needs to dwell in warm, damp environments and the dry, cold surfaces of bathroom toilets does not provide such an optimal environment. With too much oxygen exposure, this bacteria quickly dies off and therefore poses less of a risk to humans. In addition, regular hand washing helps to further diminish bacteria-related health risks (via Live Science). But of course, it never hurts to take extra precautions and avoid that middle stalls whenever possible. To play it safe, CleanLink suggests using the first stall, as it proves to be used less frequently used and is therefore (hopefully) the cleanest.