Thursday, May 12, 2011

Dirty Liberals!

Helzer and Pazarro make some interesting associations between reminders of physical cleanliness and moral and political attitudes. Their abstract, with a few parenthetic additions:
Many moral codes place a special emphasis on bodily purity, and manipulations that directly target bodily purity have been shown to influence a variety of moral judgments. Across two studies, we demonstrated that reminders of physical purity influence specific moral judgments regarding behaviors in the sexual domain as well as broad political attitudes. In the first study, individuals (the usual gaggle of college undergraduates used in studies like this, 60 in this case) in a public setting (entering the hallway of a building) who were given a reminder of physical cleansing (questioned near a wall mounted hand sanitizer) reported being more politically conservative than did individuals who were not given such a reminder (and did not see the sanitizer). In a second study, individuals reminded of physical cleansing in the laboratory (a wall sign about air born contaminants, use of hand wipes) demonstrated harsher moral judgments toward violations of sexual purity and were more likely to report being politically conservative than control participants. Together, these experiments provide further evidence of a deep link between physical purity and moral judgment, and they offer preliminary evidence that manipulations of physical purity can influence general (and putatively stable) political attitudes.

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