Toilet paper orientation

Some toilet roll holders or dispensers allow the toilet paper to hang in front of (over) or behind (under) the roll when it is placed parallel to the wall. This divides opinions about which orientation is better. Arguments range from aesthetics, hospitality, ease of access, and cleanliness, to paper conservation, ease of detaching sheets, and compatibility with pets.

Toilet paper orientation
The over orientation
The under orientation

The US advice column Ask Ann Landers reported that the subject was the most controversial issue in the column's history and, at 15,000 letters in 1986, provoked the highest number of responses.[1]

The case study of "toilet paper orientation" has been used as a teaching tool in instructing sociology students in the practice of social constructionism.[2]

Arguments edit

Two paper holders, each with different orientation

The main reasons given by people to explain why they hang their toilet paper a given way are ease of grabbing and habit.[3]

The over position reduces the risk of accidentally brushing the wall or cabinet with one's knuckles, potentially transferring grime and germs;[4] makes it easier to visually locate and to grasp the loose end;[5] gives the option to fold over the last sheet to show that the room has been cleaned;[6] and is generally the intended direction of viewing for the manufacturer's branding, so patterned toilet paper looks better this way.[7]

The under position provides a more tidy appearance, in that the loose end can be more hidden from view;[8][9] reduces the risk of a toddler or a house pet such as a cat unrolling the toilet paper when batting at the roll;[10] and in a recreational vehicle may reduce unrolling during driving.[11]

Partisans have claimed that each method makes it easier to tear the toilet paper on a perforated sheet boundary.[12]

The over position is shown in illustrations with the first patents for a free-hanging toilet-roll holders, issued in 1891.[13]

Various toilet paper dispensers are available which avoid the question of over or under orientation; for example, single sheet dispensers, jumbo roll dispensers in which the toilet roll is perpendicular to the wall, and twin roll dispensers.[14] Swivelling toilet paper dispensers have been developed which allow the paper to be unrolled in either direction.[15][16]

Public opinion edit

In various surveys, around 70% of people prefer the over position.[a] In a survey of 1,000 Americans, Cottonelle found that "overs" are more likely than "unders" to notice a roll's direction (~75 percent), to be annoyed when the direction is "incorrect" (~25 percent), and to have flipped the direction at a friend's home (~30 percent).[citation needed] The same claim is made by James Buckley's The Bathroom Companion for people older than 50.[24] Toilet paper orientation is sometimes mentioned as a hurdle for married couples.[25] The issue may also arise in businesses and public places.[26] At the Amundsen–Scott Research Station at the South Pole, complaints have been raised over which way to install toilet paper.[27] It is unclear if one orientation is more economical than the other. The Orange County Register attributes a claim to Planet Green that over saves on paper usage.[28]

Uses in social studies edit

The case study of "toilet paper orientation" is an important teaching tool in instructing sociology students in the practice of social constructionism.[29][2]

In the article "Bathroom Politics: Introducing Students to Sociological Thinking from the Bottom Up",[2] Eastern Institute of Technology sociology professor Edgar Alan Burns describes some reasons toilet paper politics is worthy of examination. On the first day of Burns' introductory course in sociology, he asks his students, "Which way do you think a roll of toilet paper should hang?"[30] In the following fifty minutes, the students examine why they picked their answers, exploring the social construction of "rules and practices which they have never consciously thought about before".[31] Burns' activity has been adopted by a social psychology course at the University of Notre Dame, where it is used to illustrate the principles of Berger and Luckmann's 1966 classic The Social Construction of Reality.[29]

Christopher Peterson, a professor of psychology at the University of Michigan, classifies the choice of toilet paper orientation under "tastes, preferences, and interests" as opposed to either values or "attitudes, traits, norms, and needs". Other personal interests include one's favorite cola or baseball team. Interests are an important part of identity; one expects and prefers that different people have different interests, which serves one's "sense of uniqueness".

Differences in interests usually lead at most to teasing and gentle chiding. For most people, interests do not cause the serious divisions caused by conflicts of values; a possible exception is what Peterson calls "the 'get a life' folks among us" who elevate interests into moral issues.[32]

Morton Ann Gernsbacher, a professor of psychology at the University of Wisconsin–Madison, compares the orientation of toilet paper to the orientation of cutlery in a dishwasher, the choice of which drawer in a chest of drawers to place one's socks, and the order of shampooing one's hair and lathering one's body in the shower. In each choice, there is a prototypical solution chosen by the majority, and it is tempting to offer simplistic explanations of how the minority must be different. She warns that neuroimaging experiments—which as of 2007 were beginning to probe behaviors from mental rotation and facial expressions to grocery shopping and tickling—must strive to avoid such cultural bias and stereotypes.[33]

In his book Conversational Capital, Bertrand Cesvet gives toilet paper placement as an example of ritualized behavior—one of the ways designers and marketers can create a memorable experience around a product that leads to word-of-mouth momentum. Cesvet's other examples include shaking a box of Tic Tacs and dissecting Oreo cookies.[34]

Notes edit

References edit

  1. ^ Mahdawi, Arwa (14 July 2021). "The most surprisingly contentious subject? Toilet roll orientation". The Guardian. Guardian News & Media Limited. Retrieved 28 January 2023.
  2. ^ a b c Burns 2003.
  3. ^ Progressive Grocer 2010.
  4. ^ Ode 2010: "The Kimberly-Clark company cites three advantages for rolling over: perforation control, viewing advantage and wall avoidance."; Garton 2005; Jarski & Jarski 2007.
  5. ^ Ode 2010; Elliott 2006
  6. ^ Lind 1992; "The Grand Princess cruise ship replaces its toilet paper with the leading edge over the front, so that it can be folded as is done in five-star hotels. (Yes, someone really did ask this question.)" (Carpenter 1999); Rosencrans 1998; Garton 2005.
  7. ^ Grant 1991b; Garton 2005; Mitchell & Sugar 2005; Jarski & Jarski 2007.
  8. ^ Jarski & Jarski 2007
  9. ^ Steve 2009
  10. ^ Darbo 2007; Garton 2005; O'Connor 2005, p. 63.
  11. ^ Nerbas 2009.
  12. ^ Ode 2010; Weingarten 2008; Keeran 1993.
  13. ^ US 447419, S. Wheeler, "Toilet paper fixture", published 1891-03-03 
  14. ^ "Toilet Roll Dispenser Buyers Guide". hygienesuppliesdirect.
  15. ^ Floyd 1999.
  16. ^ Zayas 2009.
  17. ^ Brandon Specktor (12 October 2020). "Confirmed: This Is How You Should Hang Your Toilet Paper". Reader's Digest.
  18. ^ Yenisey, Zeynep (5 April 2016). "What the Direction Your Toilet Paper Hangs Says About You According to Science: Under or over?". Maxim. Retrieved 2 April 2020.
  19. ^ Rubin 1989.
  20. ^ Kanner 1995, pp. 56, 120.
  21. ^ Ebenkamp 2004; Pierson 2004
  22. ^ American Standard Press 2008.
  23. ^ Henry 1999.
  24. ^ Buckley 2005, p. 106.
  25. ^ Wolf 1999, pp. 74–75; Hogan & Hogan 2000, p. 200.
  26. ^ Lui 2009; Grant 1991a.
  27. ^ Daily Express 1999, p. 39.
  28. ^ McNatt 2010.
  29. ^ a b Collett 2008.
  30. ^ Burns 2003, p. 111.
  31. ^ Burns 2003, p. 113.
  32. ^ Peterson 2006, pp. 173–175.
  33. ^ Gernsbacher 2007.
  34. ^ Cesvet, Babinski & Alper 2008, p. 68.

Bibliography edit

Further reading edit

  • Arkins, Diane C. (7 October 1994). "Consider Fallout of New Bath". Chicago Sun-Times. p. 22N. Factiva chi0000020011028dqa700wzz.
  • Ciancio, Dan (13 February 1995). "Potty Break". Rocky Mountain News. Factiva rmtn000020011026dr2d005jw.
  • Clark, Gary A. (21 June 1993). "Monday Memo". St. Louis Post-Dispatch. p. 9. Factiva SLMO000020040622dp6l00hkc.
  • Davis, Rich (14 February 2006). "'House Rules' Aims at Harmony". The Evansville Courier. p. D5. Factiva EVVL000020060216e22e0004u.
  • Dickson, Gunna (3 July 2001). "New Products – Clean All Over". Reuters. Factiva lba0000020010912dx730069x.
  • Downey, Maureen; Harrison, Bette (27 June 1993). "Peach buzz talk of our town". Atlanta Journal and Constitution. p. D/2. Factiva atjc000020011031dp6r00w44.
  • Harden, Hike (30 July 1995). "Like these ideas? OK, then start your own column". The Columbus Dispatch. p. 01I. Factiva clmb000020011024dr7u00d2h.
  • Keim, David (7 April 1997). "Science fair has 301 entries from 40 schools". The Knoxville News-Sentinel. p. A4. Factiva kxvl000020011007dt47006av.
  • Ladan, Mark (20 March 2001). "New exhibit from Guelph lifts the lid on toilet history". Toronto Star. p. A04. Factiva tor0000020010713dx6k00ldj.
  • Landers, Ann (7 January 1998). "'Illegitimate daughter' harassing you could be a dangerous weirdo". St. Louis Post-Dispatch. p. E2. Factiva SLMO000020040607du17004nd.
  • Landers, Ann (27 July 2002). Mary K. Nolan (ed.). "It's been an interesting 47 years". The Hamilton Spectator. p. A01. Factiva hmsp000020030501dy7r000xe.
  • "Interview: Ann Landers; Ann Landers discusses her life, her column and her new book, 'Wake Up and Smell the Coffee!'", The Oprah Winfrey Show, 6 June 1996, Factiva OPRH000020070817ds66000bj
  • "Hang toilet paper over top of roll, Ann Landers says". Toronto Star. 19 November 1986. p. A4. Factiva TOR0000020080607dibj01g0q.
  • "TTA/Talk Radio", Voice of America Press Releases and Documents, 2 March 2004, Factiva VOA0000020040303e0320001j
  • Marelius, John (18 February 1987). "Ann Landers' world has changed in 31 years". The San Diego Union-Tribune. p. D-3. Factiva SDU0000020070707dj2i00mgk.
  • McCarthey, Tom (3 March 1996). "Unraveling Toilet Trivia". The Salt Lake Tribune. p. Travel H1. Factiva sltr000020011015ds33006we.
  • Mitchell, Kathy; Sugar, Marcy (13 September 2005). "Annie's Mailbox: Ask phone company to block prank calls". The Gazette (Montreal). p. E8. Factiva MTLG000020050915e19d0000c.
  • Nestruck, J. Kelly (1 February 2005). "In loo of usual exhibits". National Post. p. AL5. Factiva FINP000020050201e1210002l.
  • Scriven, Michael (1991). Evaluation Thesaurus (4th ed.). SAGE Publications. ISBN 0-8039-4363-6.
  • Stark, Judy (27 June 1993). "They must be flushed". St. Petersburg Times. p. AT HOME, 1. Factiva stpt000020011101dp6r00yb8.
  • Toronto Star staff and news services (15 June 1993). "Over beats under in toilet paper poll". Toronto Star. p. LIFE, B1. Factiva TOR0000020080312dp6f00bo2.