Wash Your Troubles Away, With Soap
Metaphor is extremely powerful: By washing, people can remove a sense of immorality, unlucky feelings or doubt about a decision, say University of Michigan psychologists.
What's the Latest Development?
The bodily experience of removing physical residues by washing with soap can provide the basis of removing more abstract mental residues, finds a series of recent studies. Spike W.S. Lee and Norbert Schwarz of the University of Michigan found that "people asked to judge the moral wrongdoing of others saw them as worse when exposed to an unkempt room or bad odor than when sitting in a clean room." In another study, individuals asked to recall one of their own moral transgressions felt less guilty after using an antiseptic hand wipe.
What's the Big Idea?
If soap washes away the guilt associated with a moral transgression, can we conclude that frequent bathers lead happier lives? Not exactly, say researchers. "'Cleansing removes the residual influence of earlier experience,' says Lee. If that experience was positive, it would go down the drain too. In fact, washing one’s hands after reminiscing about a positive event limits the warm glow of happy memories, leaving people less satisfied." The studies give a modern context to cultural rites like baptism, which washes sin away with water.
Malcolm Gladwell teaches "Get over yourself and get to work" for Big Think Edge.
- Learn to recognize failure and know the big difference between panicking and choking.
- At Big Think Edge, Malcolm Gladwell teaches how to check your inner critic and get clear on what failure is.
- Subscribe to Big Think Edge before we launch on March 30 to get 20% off monthly and annual memberships.
We take fewer mental pictures per second.
- Recent memories run in our brains like sped-up old movies.
- In childhood, we capture images in our memory much more quickly.
- The complexities of grownup neural pathways are no match for the direct routes of young brains.
It's not just a case of "what doesn't kill you makes you stronger."
- A new study suggests children who endure trauma grow up to be adults with more empathy than others.
- The effect is not universal, however. Only one kind of empathy was greatly effected.
- The study may lead to further investigations into how people cope with trauma and lead to new ways to help victims bounce back.
It's one of the most consistent patterns in the unviverse. What causes it?
- Spinning discs are everywhere – just look at our solar system, the rings of Saturn, and all the spiral galaxies in the universe.
- Spinning discs are the result of two things: The force of gravity and a phenomenon in physics called the conservation of angular momentum.
- Gravity brings matter together; the closer the matter gets, the more it accelerates – much like an ice skater who spins faster and faster the closer their arms get to their body. Then, this spinning cloud collapses due to up and down and diagonal collisions that cancel each other out until the only motion they have in common is the spin – and voila: A flat disc.
SMARTER FASTER trademarks owned by The Big Think, Inc. All rights reserved.