Cleanliness cues activate conservative attitudes

New research reported in Miller-McCune magazine finds subtle reminders of cleanliness seem to shift people to the political right.

They may not know it, but Republicans have a secret weapon in their attempt to convince Americans of the correctness of their cause: hand sanitizers.

Such commonplace reminders of the concept of physical cleanliness can influence moral and political attitudes. That’s the conclusion of Cornell University psychologists Erik Helzer and David Pizarro, who report this effect is particularly strong in the arena of sexual morality.

Their study, just published in the journal Psychological Science, brings together three interesting threads of recent psychological research:

1. The notion that environmental cues can influence political attitudes. One recent study found people who cast ballots in a church were more likely to support an initiative endorsed by social conservatives.

2. The deep symbolic nature of hand washing. Studies have found cleaning our hands helps us emotionally disconnect from past decisions, as well as increase feelings of moral superiority.

3. The strong link between social conservatism and the concept of purity. Studies have found conservatives are more easily disgusted than liberals, and that people who feel disgust tend to judge the moral transgressions of others more harshly.

Read the full article here.

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Pacific-Standard Magazine

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