Projecting a Clean(er) Conscience onto Others

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The purpose of two experiments was to ascertain whether the association between physical and moral cleanliness, which is embedded in the purity metaphor, would have behavioral consequences in participants whose religious practices explicitly embody this metaphor (e.g., “wuthu”). Muslim female students of the Kingdom of Saudi Arabia (KSA) were presented with a school-related dilemma involving the unethical conduct (i.e., cheating) of two fictitious characters. Before being asked to judge each character, participants tested either a cleaning product or a product neutral to cleaning (a pencil). They either adopted the observer perspective or the doer perspective. After judgment was rendered, they also rated the desirability of a variety of cleaning and neutral products listed on a sheet of paper. Testing a cleaning product, such as a wipe, led to a harsher judgment of the fictitious characters than testing a pencil. However, the effect of the purity metaphor was fleeting and did not generalize to the desirability of cleaning products.