Washing hands: ‘clean hands may weaken your moral judgement!’
April 20, 2009
Last year a Britsh study was presented which pointed out a remarkable effect of washing hands: people are more likely to be tollerant in making decisions if they have just washed their hands.
The study included 2 experiment. In the first study, 44 people were asked to watch a disgusting three-minute clip from the hit film ‘Trainspotting’: 22 people had washed their hands just before seeing the movie, and 22 had not. All 44 people were then asked to rate on a scale of one to nine the morality of a series of acts in the movie (varying from stealing a wallet, to abusing a kitten).
In the second study a group was asked to read sentences with words such as ‘purity’ and ‘cleanliness’, and then they were posed the same moral dilemmas of the first experiment. Another group was given sentences including more neutral words.
Surprisingly, in both hand washing experiments the ‘clean’ group judged the unethical behaviour less harshly.
• Dr. Simone Schnall (psychologist) says:
“When we exercise moral judgment, we believe we are making a conscious, rational decision, but this research shows that we are subconsciously influenced by how clean or ‘pure’ we feel.”
• Professor Cary Cooper (psychologist) says:
“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.”