If we learned one thing from the coronavirus pandemic, it is that washing your hands is one of the best ways to keep yourself safe from contagion. But washing your hands does so much more than cleanse us physically; sometimes, it can sweep the slate clean for us mentally. Here’s one example of what a little soap can do for our mental well-being.
We are more apt to judge the dirty behaviours of others harshly when we are feeling squeaky clean. For example, in one study from 2010, participants were instructed to wash their hands before judging scenarios involving social issues such as using drugs and engaging in adultery. As a result, they were more harshly judged than participants who had not washed their hands. Cleaning their hands gave them an inflated sense of self-righteousness, and the resulting moral superiority made them more judgmental.