We've all been there. We know we put our keys on the counter near the kitchen, but they've gone missing. And some 20 minutes later, we're still searching in a panic to get out the door.
According to a new study conducted by the University of Aberdeen in the UK, if you're completely at a loss when you're searching for missing items, you're in good company. The study suggests that humans are surprisingly unproductive with their eye movements when searching for items, and when presented with two scenarios - an uncluttered area and an area in disarray - they'll waste far too much time searching the uncluttered area, yielding no results.
Indeed, a quick glance at the uncluttered area should be enough to detect if the missing item is there, yet humans spend far too much time looking at and then revisiting the clean space.
"If you're looking for your keys you should focus on the areas with the most clutter, because if they were somewhat more obvious, you would have found them by now," said Anna Maria Nowakowska, a researcher at the University of Aberdeen. She said the study suggests that people "waste a great deal of time looking in locations that they already know don't contain the thing they are looking for."