Can cleanliness wash away guilt?October 6th, 2011 - 1:53 pm ICT by IANS
Washington, Oct 6 (IANS) Religious rites like baptism make sense because it is about cleansing of impurities.
By washing hands, taking a shower, or even thinking of doing so, “people can rid themselves of a sense of immorality, lucky or unlucky feelings, or doubts about a decision,” say psychologists Spike W.S. Lee and Norbert Schwarz of the University of Michigan.
“The bodily experience of removing physical residues can provide the basis of removing more abstract mental residues,” adds Lee and Schwarz, who conducted a review study of the subject.
“Lady Macbeth is an interesting example. Her unethical behaviour is with her mouth - she pushed her husband to commit a murder - but she’s trying to get the imaginary blood stains off her hands,” says Lee.
“I won’t push it too far, but it fits nicely with the research,” he adds.
One study found that people asked to judge the moral wrongdoing of others saw them as worse when exposed to an unkempt room or bad odour than when sitting in a clean room, the journal Current Directions in Psychological Science reports.
In another study, participants asked to think of a moral wrongdoing of their own, felt less guilty after using an antiseptic hand wipe; they were also less likely to volunteer for a good deed to assuage that guilt, according to a Michigan statement.
Even imagining yourself either “clean and fresh” or “dirty and stinky” affects your judgments of others’ acts, such as masturbation or abortion. The “clean” participants in one study not just judged others more harshly, they judged themselves as more moral than them.
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Tags: bad odour, baptism, blood stains, bodily experience, good deed, guilt, immorality, impurities, judgments, lady macbeth, norbert schwarz, psychological science, psychologists, religious rites, science reports, study participants, taking a shower, unethical behaviour, washing hands, wrongdoing