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Science. 2006 Sep 8;313(5792):1451-2.

Washing away your sins: threatened morality and physical cleansing.

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1
Department of Organizational Behavior and HR Management, Joseph L. Rotman School of Management, University of Toronto, Toronto, Ontario M5S 3E6, Canada. chenbo.zhong@rotman.utoronto.ca

Erratum in

  • Science. 2006 Oct 13;314(5797):254.
  • Science. 2014 Nov 21;346(6212):aaa2510.

Abstract

Physical cleansing has been a focal element in religious ceremonies for thousands of years. The prevalence of this practice suggests a psychological association between bodily purity and moral purity. In three studies, we explored what we call the "Macbeth effect"-that is, a threat to one's moral purity induces the need to cleanse oneself. This effect revealed itself through an increased mental accessibility of cleansing-related concepts, a greater desire for cleansing products, and a greater likelihood of taking antiseptic wipes. Furthermore, we showed that physical cleansing alleviates the upsetting consequences of unethical behavior and reduces threats to one's moral self-image. Daily hygiene routines such as washing hands, as simple and benign as they might seem, can deliver a powerful antidote to threatened morality, enabling people to truly wash away their sins.

PMID:
16960010
DOI:
10.1126/science.1130726
[Indexed for MEDLINE]
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