The Dirtier the Person, the Cleaner the Slate

The original title of this post was going to say something along the lines of “I finally have a reason for being a smelly bastard,” or “Andy Officially has Academic Substantiation for Being a Dirtbag,” but they were too wordy. True, but verbose.

This week’s issue of the Economist has a fascinating article about a study done by a group of psychologists who attempted to make a correlation between people’s standard for physical hygiene and their personal moral code. In an experiment that asked participants to evaluate their reactions to myriad morally contentious scenarios posed to the group, researchers simultaneously observed the volunteers’ subsequent approach to maintaining their physical hygiene. Simply put, the study attempted to find out if there is a greater social aspect involved in the phrase “to wash one’s hands clean of something” than just a play on words.

The findings of the study indicated that those who were more likely to maintain their physical hygiene were also likely to perceive the situations posed to them in the first half of the experiment as less morally contentious than those who weren’t keeping track of washing their hands. …no, really, they had to wash their hands in the second part of the study. 🙂

I thought this article was really interesting for a couple of reasons – feel free to comment; I’d love to read responses to this. Setting aside that I definitely know people whose behavior matches the findings to a tee (yes, I regret to say that I know sheisty people who are obsessed with showering), I thought this was especially cool because of the researchers’ attempt to link physical movement to moral judgment in such a particular way.

On the other hand, the study’s attempt to link moral “hand washing” to actual hand washing is, arguably, a hell of a stretch for academia. Are we running out of things to research here? What purpose / impact do these results have in today’s world? Should I consider showering more frequently?

The answer to the last question is clear: hell no.


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