Featured Research

from universities, journals, and other organizations

Cleanliness Makes People Less Severe In Moral Judgments

Date:
December 1, 2008
Source:
Association for Psychological Science
Summary:
New research in Psychological Science has found that the physical notion of cleanliness significantly reduces the severity of moral judgments, showing that intuition, rather than deliberate reasoning can influence our perception of what is right and wrong. "Take for example the situation of a jury member or voting in an election - if the jury member had washes their hands prior to delivering their verdict, they may judge the crime less harshly," according to one of the researchers.

In one experiment students watch a 'disgusting' film clip before rating moral dilemmas. However, half the group were asked to first wash their hands. Those with freshly washed hands exercised less severe moral judgment than their counterparts.
Credit: iStockphoto/Tomas Bercic

New research in Psychological Science, a journal of the Association for Psychological Science has found that the physical notion of cleanliness significantly reduces the severity of moral judgments, showing that intuition, rather than deliberate reasoning can influence our perception of what is right and wrong.

Lead researcher, Simone Schnall explains the relevance of the findings to everyday life; “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.

“Take for example the situation of a jury member or voting in an election - if the jury member had washes their hands prior to delivering their verdict, they may judge the crime less harshly.

“Similarly, someone may find it easier to overlook a political misdemeanor had they performed an action that made them feel ‘clean’ prior to casting their vote.”

The research was conducted through two experiments with university students. In the first, they were asked to complete a scrambled sentence task involving 40 sets of four words each. By underlining any three words, a sentence could be formed. For the neutral condition, the task contained 40 sets of neutral words, but for the cleanliness condition, half of the sets contained words such as ‘pure, washed, clean, immaculate, and pristine’. The participants were then asked to rate a series of moral dilemmas including keeping money found inside a wallet, putting false information on a resume and killing a terminally ill plane crash survivor in order to avoid starvation.

The second experiment saw the students watch a ‘disgusting’ film clip before rating the same moral dilemmas. However, half the group were asked to first wash their hands.

The findings from both experiments demonstrated that those who were subject to the cognitive feeling of cleanliness exercised less severe moral judgment than their counterparts.


Story Source:

The above story is based on materials provided by Association for Psychological Science. Note: Materials may be edited for content and length.


Cite This Page:

Association for Psychological Science. "Cleanliness Makes People Less Severe In Moral Judgments." ScienceDaily. ScienceDaily, 1 December 2008. <www.sciencedaily.com/releases/2008/12/081201081915.htm>.
Association for Psychological Science. (2008, December 1). Cleanliness Makes People Less Severe In Moral Judgments. ScienceDaily. Retrieved September 21, 2014 from www.sciencedaily.com/releases/2008/12/081201081915.htm
Association for Psychological Science. "Cleanliness Makes People Less Severe In Moral Judgments." ScienceDaily. www.sciencedaily.com/releases/2008/12/081201081915.htm (accessed September 21, 2014).

Share This



More Science & Society News

Sunday, September 21, 2014

Featured Research

from universities, journals, and other organizations


Featured Videos

from AP, Reuters, AFP, and other news services

Will Climate Rallies Spur Change?

Will Climate Rallies Spur Change?

Newsy (Sep. 21, 2014) Organizers of the People's Climate March and other rallies taking place in 166 countries hope to move U.N. officials to action ahead of their summit. Video provided by Newsy
Powered by NewsLook.com
Thousands March in NYC Over Climate Change

Thousands March in NYC Over Climate Change

AP (Sep. 21, 2014) Accompanied by drumbeats, wearing costumes and carrying signs, thousands of demonstrators filled the streets of Manhattan and other cities around the world on Sunday to urge policy makers to take action on climate change. (Sept. 21) Video provided by AP
Powered by NewsLook.com
Sierra Leone in Lockdown to Control Ebola

Sierra Leone in Lockdown to Control Ebola

AP (Sep. 21, 2014) Sierra Leone residents remained in lockdown on Saturday as part of a massive effort to confine millions of people to their homes in a bid to stem the biggest Ebola outbreak in history. (Sept. 20) Video provided by AP
Powered by NewsLook.com
Climate Change Rally Held in India Ahead of UN Summit

Climate Change Rally Held in India Ahead of UN Summit

AFP (Sep. 20, 2014) Some 125 world leaders are expected to commit to action on climate change at a UN summit Tuesday called to inject momentum in struggling efforts to tackle global warming. Duration: 00:41 Video provided by AFP
Powered by NewsLook.com

Search ScienceDaily

Number of stories in archives: 140,361

Find with keyword(s):
Enter a keyword or phrase to search ScienceDaily for related topics and research stories.

Save/Print:
Share:

Breaking News:
from the past week

In Other News

... from NewsDaily.com

Science News

Health News

Environment News

Technology News



Save/Print:
Share:

Free Subscriptions


Get the latest science news with ScienceDaily's free email newsletters, updated daily and weekly. Or view hourly updated newsfeeds in your RSS reader:

Get Social & Mobile


Keep up to date with the latest news from ScienceDaily via social networks and mobile apps:

Have Feedback?


Tell us what you think of ScienceDaily -- we welcome both positive and negative comments. Have any problems using the site? Questions?
Mobile: iPhone Android Web
Follow: Facebook Twitter Google+
Subscribe: RSS Feeds Email Newsletters
Latest Headlines Health & Medicine Mind & Brain Space & Time Matter & Energy Computers & Math Plants & Animals Earth & Climate Fossils & Ruins