Do you often find yourself making tough decisions? Looking for some clarity afterward? Well, take a cue from Shakespeare and run to the bathroom. That sounds weird, but it actually has science behind it. In William Shakespeare’s famous tragedy Macbeth, Lady Macbeth, runs to wash the blood off her hands after her husband kills Duncan, the King of Scotland.
Now hopefully none of your decisions involve murdering someone, but the concept of washing your hands to calm yourself and move on after making a bold decision has some merit to it.
It is known as the “Lady Macbeth effect” and researchers recently proved that it works. As part of a study published in the journal, Science participants were asked to rank 10 music CDs (from a list of 30) and then choose their 5th and 6th favorite album to take home as a gift (for themselves.)
Once they made their decision some of the participants were asked to wash their hands while some were not. A little bit later they were asked to rank the CDs again and those who got to wash their hands stuck with the same order, while the people with dirtier hands moved the ones ranked the one they got to bring home two places higher to make them feel better about their decision.
Other studies have shown that performing an unethical act does drive a need to self cleanse. Authors Spike W. S. Lee and Norbert Schwarz of the University of Michigan believe that the Lady Macbeth effect could be part of a larger “clean slate effect.” Even if your decision wasn’t a hard or bad one to make there is still a strong need to remove the weight of it by “cleaning it off.”
Plus, washing your hands is never a bad thing (especially with all the germs floating around an office.) And at least it wasn’t advice from one of Shakespeare’s other most famous tragedies. Because in that case every time you met a potential love interest you’d have to marry them then and form a joint suicide pact.
Originally published on Ladders.
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