Macbeth Effect

A little water clears us of our deeds! Study results published in Science suggest that hand washing “cleanses” the mind of unethical behavior, a result the researchers call the “Macbeth effect.” They asked 170 undergraduate students to focus on their conduct throughout the day. Those who remembered a misdeed were more likely to feel dirty than those who remembered a good deed. Among volunteers who felt unclean and then washed their hands, only 41 percent helped a fellow student in need of assistance, whereas 74 percent of those who remembered a misdeed but had not cleansed their hands helped their peer. The researchers concluded that the volunteers who washed their hands no longer needed to perform a good deed to compensate for their bad ones.

Terry Pfau DO, HMD

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