Blog | Tuesday, November 25, 2008

How to con friends and influence people

Next time you're on a jury, don't be surprised if the defendant's attorney asks you to wash your hands before deliberating on the verdict.

A new study in Psychological Science finds that, if you feel "clean," you will go easy on judging others, a press release said.

Here's the study design, according to the release:

"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."

Subjects with "the cognitive feeling of cleanliness" were less harsh in their moral judgements of others, the release said.

Hmm, could our society's moral decline all be traced back to the increased use of travel-size antibacterial gel?!