Forum for Science, Industry and Business

Sponsored by:     3M 
Search our Site:

 

You Can Wash Away Your Troubles, With Soap

06.10.2011
“Wash away my troubles, wash away my pain,” goes the song. Is there such a thing as soap and water for the psyche? Yes: Metaphor is that powerful, say Spike W.S. Lee and Norbert Schwarz of the University of Michigan in a literature review appearing in the latest issue of Current Directions in Psychological Science, a journal published by the Association for Psychological Science.

Religious rites like baptism make psychological sense, the article suggests. Says Lee: “Cleansing is about the removal of residues.” By washing the hands, taking a shower, or even thinking of doing so, “people can rid themselves of a sense of immorality, lucky or unlucky feelings, or doubt about a decision. The bodily experience of removing physical residues can provide the basis of removing more abstract mental residues.”

One study the authors discuss found that people asked to judge the moral wrongdoing of others saw them as worse when exposed to an unkempt room or bad odor than when sitting in a clean room. 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. 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 only judged others more harshly, they judged themselves as more moral than others.

Cleansing works for other mental discomforts, too, such as post-decision doubt. To resolve this doubt, people who opted for one of two similar jams felt better about their choice after making the decision, a well-known tendency called choice justification. But if people were given a hand wipe to use, they no longer justified their choice: They had wiped off their doubt. Using soap showed similar results after a bad luck streak in gambling: After washing, participants started to bet higher stakes, suggesting they had “washed away” their bad luck.

But we can’t conclude that people who bathe a lot are happier. “Cleansing removes the residual influence of earlier experience,” says Lee. If that experience was positive, it would go down the drain too. In fact, washing one’s hands after reminiscing about a positive event limits the warm glow of happy memories, leaving people less satisfied.

So was Shakespeare, so monumentally astute about human emotion, wrong to portray Lady Macbeth as unable to wash the metaphoric blood from her hands? The authors’ research suggests she might have had the wrong body part in the soapy water. In one experiment, participants were induced to tell a malicious lie either by email or voice mail. Afterwards, those who had lied “by mouth” evaluated a mouthwash more highly than a hand sanitizer, while those who transgressed “by hand” showed the opposite preference. “Lady Macbeth is an interesting example. Her unethical behavior is with her mouth”—she pushed her husband to commit 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 research.”

For more information about this study, please contact: Norbert Schwarz at norbert.schwarz@umich.edu.

Current Directions in Psychological Science, a journal of the Association for Psychological Science, publishes concise reviews on the latest advances in theory and research spanning all of scientific psychology and its applications. For a copy of "Wiping the Slate Clean: Psychological Consequences of Physical Cleansing" and access to other Current Directions in Psychological Science research findings, please contact Divya Menon at 202-293-9300 or dmenon@psychologicalscience.org.

Divya Menon | EurekAlert!
Further information:
http://www.psychologicalscience.org

Further reports about: Macbeth SOAP Troubles clean room mental residues psychological sense

More articles from Health and Medicine:

nachricht New malaria analysis method reveals disease severity in minutes
14.08.2017 | University of British Columbia

nachricht New type of blood cells work as indicators of autoimmunity
14.08.2017 | Instituto de Medicina Molecular

All articles from Health and Medicine >>>

The most recent press releases about innovation >>>

Die letzten 5 Focus-News des innovations-reports im Überblick:

Im Focus: Fizzy soda water could be key to clean manufacture of flat wonder material: Graphene

Whether you call it effervescent, fizzy, or sparkling, carbonated water is making a comeback as a beverage. Aside from quenching thirst, researchers at the University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign have discovered a new use for these "bubbly" concoctions that will have major impact on the manufacturer of the world's thinnest, flattest, and one most useful materials -- graphene.

As graphene's popularity grows as an advanced "wonder" material, the speed and quality at which it can be manufactured will be paramount. With that in mind,...

Im Focus: Exotic quantum states made from light: Physicists create optical “wells” for a super-photon

Physicists at the University of Bonn have managed to create optical hollows and more complex patterns into which the light of a Bose-Einstein condensate flows. The creation of such highly low-loss structures for light is a prerequisite for complex light circuits, such as for quantum information processing for a new generation of computers. The researchers are now presenting their results in the journal Nature Photonics.

Light particles (photons) occur as tiny, indivisible portions. Many thousands of these light portions can be merged to form a single super-photon if they are...

Im Focus: Circular RNA linked to brain function

For the first time, scientists have shown that circular RNA is linked to brain function. When a RNA molecule called Cdr1as was deleted from the genome of mice, the animals had problems filtering out unnecessary information – like patients suffering from neuropsychiatric disorders.

While hundreds of circular RNAs (circRNAs) are abundant in mammalian brains, one big question has remained unanswered: What are they actually good for? In the...

Im Focus: RAVAN CubeSat measures Earth's outgoing energy

An experimental small satellite has successfully collected and delivered data on a key measurement for predicting changes in Earth's climate.

The Radiometer Assessment using Vertically Aligned Nanotubes (RAVAN) CubeSat was launched into low-Earth orbit on Nov. 11, 2016, in order to test new...

Im Focus: Scientists shine new light on the “other high temperature superconductor”

A study led by scientists of the Max Planck Institute for the Structure and Dynamics of Matter (MPSD) at the Center for Free-Electron Laser Science in Hamburg presents evidence of the coexistence of superconductivity and “charge-density-waves” in compounds of the poorly-studied family of bismuthates. This observation opens up new perspectives for a deeper understanding of the phenomenon of high-temperature superconductivity, a topic which is at the core of condensed matter research since more than 30 years. The paper by Nicoletti et al has been published in the PNAS.

Since the beginning of the 20th century, superconductivity had been observed in some metals at temperatures only a few degrees above the absolute zero (minus...

All Focus news of the innovation-report >>>

Anzeige

Anzeige

Event News

Call for Papers – ICNFT 2018, 5th International Conference on New Forming Technology

16.08.2017 | Event News

Sustainability is the business model of tomorrow

04.08.2017 | Event News

Clash of Realities 2017: Registration now open. International Conference at TH Köln

26.07.2017 | Event News

 
Latest News

A Map of the Cell’s Power Station

18.08.2017 | Life Sciences

Engineering team images tiny quasicrystals as they form

18.08.2017 | Physics and Astronomy

Researchers printed graphene-like materials with inkjet

18.08.2017 | Materials Sciences

VideoLinks
B2B-VideoLinks
More VideoLinks >>>