Featured Research

from universities, journals, and other organizations

Wash away your doubts when you wash your hands

Date:
May 7, 2010
Source:
University of Michigan
Summary:
Washing your hands "wipes the slate clean," removing doubts about recent choices, according to researchers. Their study expands on past research by showing that hand-washing does more than remove the guilt of past misdeeds.

Washing your hands "wipes the slate clean," removing doubts about recent choices.

Related Articles


That's the key finding of a University of Michigan study published in the current (May 7) issue of Science.

The study, conducted by U-M psychologists Spike W. S. Lee and Norbert Schwarz, expands on past research by showing that hand-washing does more than remove the guilt of past misdeeds.

"It's not just that washing your hands contributes to moral cleanliness as well as physical cleanliness, as seen in earlier research" said Lee, a doctoral candidate in social psychology. "Our studies show that washing also reduces the influence of past behaviors and decisions that have no moral implications whatsoever."

For the study, Lee and Schwarz, who is affiliated with the U-M Institute for Social Research (ISR) and the Ross School of Business in addition to the Department of Psychology, asked undergraduate students to browse through 30 CD covers as part of an alleged consumer survey. Participants picked 10 CDs they would like to own, ranking them by preference. Later, the experimenter offered them a choice between their 5th and 6th ranked CDs as a token of appreciation. Following that choice, participants completed an ostensibly unrelated product survey -- of liquid soap. Half merely examined the bottle before answering while the others tested the soap by washing their hands. After completing a filler task, participants were asked to rank the 10 CDs again.

"People who merely examined the soap bottle dealt with their doubts about their decision by changing how they saw the CDs: As in hundreds of earlier studies, once they had made a choice, they saw the chosen CD as much more attractive than before and the rejected CD as much less attractive. But hand-washing eliminated this classic effect. Once participants had washed their hands, they no longer needed to justify their choice when they ranked the CDs the second time around," Schwarz said.

The researchers replicated the findings in a study using a different task -- taste expectations of jars of fruit jams and ostensibly unrelated surveys of antiseptic wipes. "Participants who merely examined an antiseptic wipe after choosing a jar of fruit jam expected the taste of the chosen jam to far exceed the taste of the rejected one. This difference was eliminated when participants tested the antiseptic wipe by cleaning their hands," said Lee.

According to the authors, the results show that as much as washing can cleanse us from traces of past immoral behavior, it can also cleanse us from traces of past decisions, reducing the need to justify them.

This "clean slate" effect may be relevant to many choices in life. Does washing away the urge to justify one's choice of one car over another, or even one partner over another, result in less rosy evaluations of them in the long run? If so, does this increase buyer's remorse because buyers are less likely to convince themselves that they made the best choice possible?


Story Source:

The above story is based on materials provided by University of Michigan. Note: Materials may be edited for content and length.


Journal Reference:

  1. Spike W. S. Lee, Norbert Schwarz. Washing Away Postdecisional Dissonance. Science, 2010; 328 (5979): 709 DOI: 10.1126/science.1186799

Cite This Page:

University of Michigan. "Wash away your doubts when you wash your hands." ScienceDaily. ScienceDaily, 7 May 2010. <www.sciencedaily.com/releases/2010/05/100506141601.htm>.
University of Michigan. (2010, May 7). Wash away your doubts when you wash your hands. ScienceDaily. Retrieved October 30, 2014 from www.sciencedaily.com/releases/2010/05/100506141601.htm
University of Michigan. "Wash away your doubts when you wash your hands." ScienceDaily. www.sciencedaily.com/releases/2010/05/100506141601.htm (accessed October 30, 2014).

Share This



More Mind & Brain News

Thursday, October 30, 2014

Featured Research

from universities, journals, and other organizations


Featured Videos

from AP, Reuters, AFP, and other news services

Techy Tots Are Forefront of London's Baby Show

Techy Tots Are Forefront of London's Baby Show

AP (Oct. 28, 2014) Moms and Dads get a more hands-on approach to parenting with tech-centric products for raising their little ones. (Oct. 28) Video provided by AP
Powered by NewsLook.com
Cocoa Could Be As Good For Memory As It Is For A Sweet Tooth

Cocoa Could Be As Good For Memory As It Is For A Sweet Tooth

Newsy (Oct. 27, 2014) Researchers have come up with another reason why dark chocolate is good for your health. A substance in the treat can reportedly help with memory. Video provided by Newsy
Powered by NewsLook.com
Five-Year-Olds Learn Coding as Britain Eyes Digital Future

Five-Year-Olds Learn Coding as Britain Eyes Digital Future

AFP (Oct. 27, 2014) Coding has become compulsory for children as young as five in schools across the UK. Making it the first major world economy to overhaul its IT teaching and put programming at its core. Duration: 02:19 Video provided by AFP
Powered by NewsLook.com
Academic Scandal Shocks UNC

Academic Scandal Shocks UNC

AP (Oct. 23, 2014) A scandal involving bogus classes and inflated grades at the University of North Carolina was bigger than previously reported, a new investigation found. (Oct. 23) Video provided by AP
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:

Strange & Offbeat Stories


Health & Medicine

Mind & Brain

Living & Well

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