Stay and flush or flee to a cleaner toilet stall?




fight or flee public toilets

Choice is quite powerful in the lives of humans. When we have options in life, it is easier to leave an unfavourable situation for a better one.

Psychologists argue that humans believe having choices is equal to having control. To this end, they stated that choices = control = survival. Our survival make-up convinces us that we will survive if we have more control. The yearn for more control as humans, drives us in continuous pursuit of choices. We love choices in different scenarios and that could sometimes lead to indecision or the FOMO (fear of missing out) syndrome. 

In public toilets, we ideally like to meet two or more stalls empty. It makes us feel safe and provides the opportunity to compare stalls before settling for the most convenient. As some stalls could be out of toilet rolls or decorated in urine splashes. In other situations, the lock of a stall could be faulty or floor flooded. These circumstances make having choices comforting and exciting. Do we use the facility regardless or check the next available unit?


Fight-or-flee response in public toilets  

In Psychology, the fight-or-flee response is also referred to as the acute stress response. It is how we react psychologically when confronting something physically or mentally terrifying. Our reaction is inspired by the release of hormones in our body to either leave or stay to deal with the situation. This can also be applied to the public toilet scenario. What is your reaction after meeting a toilet partially or completely flushed?  We will look at some actions that can be linked to both reactions. 


Fight response – use the toilet 

There are certain factors that determine our use of the toilet facility. 

  1. All other stalls are occupied or unavailable: When all stalls in the toilet unit are either occupied, broken or in worse hygiene standard, opting to use the facility is a no brainer.  It is one of the most logical decisions to make in this case.
  2. Relaxed hygiene standard: Hygiene is important for us but we have varying levels of tolerance. Those with relaxed hygiene standards are happy to use an unflushed or partially flushed facility. 
  3. Too pressed to be stressed: For some, when pressed for a number two, the state of the toilet will be the least of their worries. The fear of having an accident is stronger than putting up with the sorry state of the lavatory.
  4. Nothing fazes you: We are all built up differently. Some individuals are not overwhelmed, put off or irritated by anything. It could sound like a fairytale, as humans are expected to have their limits. 


Fight response – use a different toilet

The opposite of the above factors are reasons that could make people refrain from using a toilet left in a deplorable state. There are additional reasons that trigger a flight response.

  1. A previous bad toilet experience: Users who have used toilets in a similar state in the past and ended up throwing up or becoming ill will resist going through something similar.
  2. Nearby public or portable toilet facility: When you know there are nearby public toilets, you can avoid using one in a deplorable state. 

The decision to use or not use an unpleasant facility depends on some of the reasons stated above. It all comes down to the individual and their options.


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