-- Mary Elizabeth Dallas
MONDAY, Oct. 10 (HealthDay News) -- There may be some truth to
the expression "cleanliness is next to godliness" after all, finds
a new review of previously published studies.
University of Michigan researchers found that showering and
hand-washing help people rid themselves of bad feelings, such as
guilt, sadness or doubt.
"Cleansing is about the removal of residues," said researcher Spike W.S. Lee. "By even just thinking about washing themselves, people can rid themselves of a sense of immorality, lucky or unlucky feelings, or doubt about a decision."
The review was published in the latest issue of
Current Directions in Psychological Science.
In examining previous studies, researchers found that people
exposed to a messy room or bad odor judged others more harshly for
moral wrongs than when they were sitting in a clean room.
In a separate study, researchers showed that people felt less
guilty while thinking of something immoral they had done if they
used an antiseptic hand wipe. As a result, they were also less
likely to volunteer for a good cause in order to ease their guilty
The review authors also said that people who perceive themselves
as "clean" feel morally superior to others and may judge them more
Physical cleanliness may also help people shed feelings of bad
luck. The researchers said gamblers who washed with soap believed
doing so had also "washed away" their bad luck -- so they made even
"Cleansing removes the residual influence of earlier experience," said Lee in a journal news release. That applies to both happy memories and bad ones, the authors said.
They added that sanitizing the particular body part associated
with a wrongdoing may have a more significant mental cleansing
effect. For instance, another study revealed that liars prefer
mouthwash to other types of cleansers.
The U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention has
practical tips on
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