Sunday, September 5, 2010

Wash Your Hands Right Now!


Well, I just discovered that hand washing affects your moral judgment and gives a more lenient attitude toward sinners and wrong doers. And since I'm pretty sure I fall into both categories, it occurs to me that before reading this page a good hand washing might be in order!

wash hands

I find this really interesting. It has all sorts of implications! For example - would something like this help when you're having a problem with your significant other? with your children? If someone gives you a hard time, couldn't you just suggest a good hand washing? It might be better than a hand wringing in a bad situation.... Does a picture of someone washing their hands have a similar effect? Could I post something like that on my front door? I'm intrigued by the whole thing. So... Here's the article, what do you think?

The old adage that cleanliness is next to godliness has now received scientific support after researchers discovered washing your hands can affect your moral judgment.

People who wash their hands make less severe judgments. A new study has found that people are more likely to be lenient in making decisions if they have just washed their hands.

British scientists who carried out the research said the findings suggest that jurors in criminal trials who have cleansed their hands may make their verdict less severe.

This suggests that voters may be more likely to excuse a politician's misdemeanours when going to the ballot box if they have just had a shower.

In the study, 22 people who had washed their hands, and 22 who had not, were made to watch a disgusting three-minute clip of heroin addicts from the hit film Trainspotting.

All 44 were then asked to rate how morally wrong they deemed the series of acts shown to them on a scale of one to nine, with one being acceptable and seven being very wrong.

The actions included stealing money from a wallet, lying on a job application, cooking and eating the family dog, killing a dying plane crash survivor to avoid starvation, and abusing a kitten.

All said they thought the actions were 'wrong'. However, the participants who had washed their hands were less likely to judge the actions as harshly as the group who had not.

In another experiment, a group was asked to read sentences with words such as 'purity' and 'cleanliness' before being posed the same moral dilemmas. Another group was given sentences with neutral words.

Again, the 'clean' group judged the unethical behaviour less harshly.

Lead researcher Dr Simone Schnall, a psychologist at the University of Plymouth, said: "We like to think we arrive at decisions because we deliberate, but incidental things can influence us.

"This could have implications when voting and when juries make up their minds."

Lancaster University psychologist Professor Carey Cooper described the findings as "terrifying". He said: "It suggests that washing can make us more prepared to accept wrongdoing. It is very scary when you think of the implications, especially in the judicial world."

Article by Murray Wardrop

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