Washing the hands makes us feel more optimistic - study

25th of November 2013
Washing the hands makes us feel more optimistic - study

People who wash their hands after failing at a task feel more optimistic than those who do not, new research has found. But this optimism may be misplaced according to the University of Cologne study.

Nearly 100 people were asked to attempt an impossible task, after which some were asked to wash their hands. All participants were then quizzed on their reaction to the failure of the task.

Those who had washed their hands reported higher levels of optimism than those who had not. But when asked to reattempt the task, the former were actually less successful than the latter.

According to the University of Cologne's junior professor for social and media psychology Dr Kai Kaspar, the findings indicate that physical cleansing can help to reduce negative feelings. However, he adds, it can also reduce motivation.

And Brunel University chartered psychologist Lynn Myers's comments on the findings were: "Hand washing increased optimism after failure, and this could have been due to a reduction in the participants' anxiety. Washing can be seen as ritualistic behaviour, and such behaviour is expressed in some people who have obsessive-compulsive disorder where washing reduces anxiety.

"A well replicated finding is that low anxiety is related to high optimism. It is possible that washing the hands had a similar effect in the study: that after a failure, washing reduced the participants' anxiety and therefore increased optimism."

The results of the study were published in the journal Social Psychological and Personality Science.




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