Habit: from toilets to turns

What is it about human nature that makes us follow routine? If we do something, even symplistic, and it works, we do it again.  We make habits.

I was thinking about this because of bathrooms.  The new building I work in is large and, at times, maze like.  All the womens’ bathrooms are on one side and then mens’ on the other. My office is on the mens’ bathroom side of the building.  Therefore, while wandering the halls to different meetings or just trying to find my desk, I try out different bathrooms.  Today I was down in the area where I spent five weeks of training.  I popped into that bathroom, walked three stalls down, and entered to the right.  There was no thought in the process.  In a public women’s restroom with a dozen choices, I went to the one I frequented during training.

This made me think.

How did I choose this particular toilet? Why is it human nature to have a toilet and not choose any other open one?  Sure. If mine were filled (or gross), I would move on, no tears shed.  But still.  I gravitate to one.  At my old office, there were only three choice.  I used the middle one.  I know that other colleagues had their toilet of choice as well.  I can’t figure out how I decide, but the more I think about it, the more I know one some level I have made a decision.

I didn’t really want to write a post about toilet choices… for the obvious reason that this is only going to bring more nasty google searches to my site. Also, my mother reads this (Hi Mom) and a high school teacher (Hi Alice).

So I thought of other examples.  I walk my dog.  As long as a hill is not involved, when we leave the house, the walk starts to the left.  Generally, we walk in a circle– around a block, around a park, around in a circle… but we always start to the left.  At my host parent’s in Chile, we started to the left. Here, we start to the left. At my parent’s house, we start to the left.  In Texas, we started to the left.  The circles themselves are different- some clockwise and some counterclockwise.  It feels wrong to start out the other way. Why is that?

I have other examples… but perhaps I will let you, the reader (or friend, former teacher, family member, lurker, stranger, or blog friend), think about the topic and add your examples.  Also, if you have an answer to my why, please do share.



  1. Haha. You know I read a study saying that most people will chose the middle stall (given a choice) and therefore you should choose one of the side stalls, you know, less germs and all.

  2. I always sit on the right side of the micro if I have a choice. I also always choose the 514 if I have a choice, even though all four micros that go on my street “me sirven” (I have no idea how to say that in English right now).

    In college I seemed to use the same stall of the bathroom when I lived in the dorms as well.

    Fun topic. Now, who has an explanation as to why we do this?

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