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Does Cleanliness Influence Moral Judgments? : A Direct Replication of Schnall, Benton, and Harvey (2008)

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      Schnall, Benton, and Harvey (2008) hypothesized that physical cleanliness reduces the severity of moral judgments. In support of this idea, they found that individuals make less severe judgments when they are primed with the concept of cleanliness (Exp. 1) and when they wash their hands after experiencing disgust (Exp. 2). We conducted direct replications of both studies using materials supplied by the original authors. We did not find evidence that physical cleanliness reduced the severity of moral judgments using samples sizes that provided over .99 power to detect the original effect sizes. Our estimates of the overall effect size were much smaller than estimates from Experiment 1 (original d = −0.60, 95% CI [−1.23, 0.04], N = 40; replication d = −0.01, 95% CI [−0.28, 0.26], N = 208) and Experiment 2 (original d = −0.85, 95% CI [−1.47, −0.22], N = 43; replication d = 0.01, 95% CI [−.34, 0.36], N = 126). These findings suggest that the population effect sizes are probably substantially smaller than the original estimates. Researchers investigating the connections between cleanliness and morality should therefore use large sample sizes to have the necessary power to detect subtle effects.

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      Most cited references 20

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          Disgust as embodied moral judgment.

          How, and for whom, does disgust influence moral judgment? In four experiments participants made moral judgments while experiencing extraneous feelings of disgust. Disgust was induced in Experiment 1 by exposure to a bad smell, in Experiment 2 by working in a disgusting room, in Experiment 3 by recalling a physically disgusting experience, and in Experiment 4 through a video induction. In each case, the results showed that disgust can increase the severity of moral judgments relative to controls. Experiment 4 found that disgust had a different effect on moral judgment than did sadness. In addition, Experiments 2-4 showed that the role of disgust in severity of moral judgments depends on participants' sensitivity to their own bodily sensations. Taken together, these data indicate the importance-and specificity-of gut feelings in moral judgments.

            Author and article information

            [ 1 ] Department of Psychology, Michigan State University, East Lansing, MI, USA
            Author notes
            David J. Johnson, Department of Psychology, 316 Physics, Rm 244C, East Lansing, MI 48824, USA, djjohnson@
            Social Psychology
            Hogrefe Publishing
            May 2014
            : 45
            : 3
            : 209-215
            zsp_45_3_209 10.1027/1864-9335/a000186
            Self URI (journal-page):


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