01/01/2009 05:12 am ET Updated Nov 17, 2011

Study: Clean People Are Less Judgmental

A vigorous hand wash or shower could cause a person to be less judgmental.

A new study, set for publication in the December issue of the journal Psychological Science, reveals that when a person feels physically clean, he or she cuts others more moral slack.

The findings add to past research that has shown a link between physical warmth and generosity as well as physical chill and social isolation. Other past research has shown that sins seem to nudge people to clean themselves, a phenomenon the researchers dubbed the "Macbeth effect" after the dramatized murderess who tried scrubbing her hands to clean off imaginary blood.

"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," said lead researcher of the new study Simone Schnall, a psychologist at the University of Plymouth in England. "Take for example the situation of a jury member or voting in an election - if the jury member had washed their hands prior to delivering their verdict, they may judge the crime less harshly."

She added, "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."

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