Monday, November 20, 2006

Maybe Lady MacBeth was on to something


…If people wash their hands a lot, do they have a guilty conscience or have they watched the Health Channel too much?

…Scientists have found that people who washed their hands after contemplating an unethical act were less troubled by their scroungy thoughts than those who didn’t.

…There is an association between moral and physical purity, according to a doc in an article in the NYT (Sept 12, 2006) by Benedict Carey.

…Using Northwestern undergrads, the researchers had one group remember an unethical act from their past like betraying a friend and had another reflect on something nice they did like returning lost money. Both then had a choice of a nice gift or an antiseptic wipe. Those who had reflected on the unethical act took the wipe twice as often.

…It is common to want to do something to compensate when one has done wrong. It’s an attempt to repair moral identity, scientists say.

…Those who contemplated the unethical act were more likely to volunteer for a project—unless they had washed their hands. That cut the altruism in half.

…This doesn’t work forever, this cleansing thing. In “MacBeth,” everyone went way beyond a washbasin’s ability to repair.

…You mean there are limits to the moral power of a HandiWipe? Good to know.

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