How washing your hands can remove guilt

Scientists find that people who washed immediately after making an agonising decision, were happier with their choice compared with those who didn't...

Scientists have found that washing your hands frees you of taking the blame for any unhappy outcome of a difficult decision.

They found that people who washed immediately after making an agonising decision, were happier with their choice compared with those who didn’t.

The researchers think that the act seems to psychologically draw a line under the decision. Spike Lee, from the University of Michigan, who led the study, said that washing your hands seemed to remove doubts about whether you had done the right thing.

‘Our studies show that washing your hands can symbolically ‘wipe away‘ these concerns,’ he said. ‘Once you washed your hands, you seem at ease with your decision and no longer need to do the mental work that makes the chosen alternative look much better than the rejected one.’

The latest research, reported in the journal Science, looked at whether the phenomenon extends to decisions with little or no moral implications by asking a set of volunteers to pick between two CDs or two jams.

Scientists found the 40 volunteers were less likely to try to justify their choice if they washed their hands just after making it.

The idea that it is possible to wash away our sins is deep rooted in many cultures and religions, including Christianity. Water is a cornerstone of baptism ceremonies and, in the Bible, Pontius Pilate washed his hands after condemning Jesus to death.

Shakespeare also subscribed to the idea, making Lady Macbeth attempt to wash away her guilt of plotting King Duncan’s murder.

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