Study finds correlation between cleanliness and ethics
HOUSTON — A study performed by professors from Rice University, Pennsylvania State University and Arizona State University found that people exposed to uncleanly areas or items are more likely to act immorally, while cleanliness causes people to be more ethical, according to an article from Rice University.
The study, which exposed 600 test subjects from across the country to three experiments, each of which was meant to cause subjects to react with disgust: One had subjects evaluate “unsavory” consumer items; another had them write about a disgusting memory; ant the last had them watch a disgusting scene in a movie.
“When people feel disgusted, they tend to remove themselves from a situation. The instinct is to protect oneself,” Rice Professor Vikas Mittal, one of the study’s coauthors, said of their findings. “People become focused on ‘self’ and they’re less likely to think about other people. Small cheating starts to occur.”
The study also found that cleaning or even thinking about cleaning caused immoral thoughts to dissipate.
“If you can create conditions where people’s disgust is mitigated, you should not see this (unethical) effect,” Mittal added in the article. “One way to mitigate disgust is to make people think about something clean. “
The findings of the study will be published in Organizational Behavior and Human Decision Processes.
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