It turns out that dirty deeds really are -- people who feel like they've done something unethical feel the need to bathe more often, according to new research in Science:
Liljenquist and her colleague Chen-Bo Zhong at the University of Toronto in Canada first asked undergraduate student volunteers to focus on ethical or unethical deeds from their past. The volunteers were more likely to interpret the word fragments "W _ _ H" as "wash" and "S _ _ P" as "soap" if they had been thinking of an unethical deed, and to choose an antiseptic wipe instead of a pencil as free gift.
The investigators also asked volunteers to hand-copy a short story written in the first person about either helping or sabotaging a coworker. Zhong and Liljenquist found the students who copied the unethical story were more likely to then rate cleansing products such as toothpaste and detergent as more desirable than noncleansing products such as batteries and candy bars in what the participants thought was an unrelated marketing study.
In their last set of experiments, the researchers asked volunteers to first remember an unethical deed and then either gave them the chance to wash their hands or not. When the students were afterward asked whether they would volunteer without pay for another research study to help out a desperate graduate student, 74 percent of those who had not washed their hands offered to help, while only 41 percent of the participants who had a chance to wash their hands did. This suggested volunteers who did not get the chance to clean themselves felt a need "to absolve their consciences," Liljenquist said.
This "Macbeth effect" suggests that the areas of the brain that process moral disgust and physical disgust overlap. I guess it also explains the whole baptism thing. ... Now, if you'll excuse me, I'm gonna go hop in the shower.
via Idle Musings