Macbeth Effect

The Macbeth Effect

The urge to clean up, especially after a previous dirty and unethical act is known to be the Macbeth Effect. It is a process of urgently attaining psychic absolution. It is an automatic psychological association of physical cleansing and moral purification right after a commission of something that is bad, evil or awful!

The Macbeth Effect was a result of experimental research published recently (2006) by Chen-Bo Zhong of the Rotman School of Management at Canada's University of Toronto and Katie Liljenquist of the Northwestern University's Kellogg School of Management in Chicago. They mainly discovered that people who remembered acting unethically were more attracted to cleansing products than those who recalled behaving ethically. "Daily hygiene routines such as washing hands, as simple and benign as they might seem, can deliver a powerful antidote to threatened morality, enabling people to truly wash away their sins," the researchers wrote.

The phenomenon of the Macbeth Effect was named after Lady Macbeth, who conspired King Duncan's murder in the Shakespeare's play, "Macbeth." Lady Macbeth, after bloodying her hands when her husband, at her urging, murdered King Duncan, washed her hands in the hope of getting some sense of absolution and purification of her guilt. The Macbeth experiment grouped students with simple ethical (returning lost money) and unethical deeds (like betraying a friend) and asked to fill in some questions. It was found out that students with unethical past were more likely to do good to compensate. They are also more likely to wipe or wash their hands.

INSIGHTS: Guilt digs deep on a sorrowing soul. Horace Bushnell and Nicholas Rowe captured it well -- “Guilt is the very nerve of sorrow” (Bushnell); “Guilt is the source of sorrow, 'tis the fiend, th' avenging fiend, that follows us behind, With whips and stings” (Rowe). However, the Macbeth Effect can either free us from sorrow by genuine absolution, or alleviate sorrow by a cover-up!


Macbeth Effect at http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Macbeth_(Macbeth).

Macbeth Effect at http://thinkingmeat.com/newsblog/?p=579.

Macbeth Effect at http://www.cosmosmagazine.com/news/636/washing-away-your-sins-macbeth-effect.

Macbeth Effect at http://www.medindia.net/news/view_news_main.asp?x=14058.