A Clean Start

Kevin Lewis

January 01, 2010

The Smell of Virtue: Clean Scents Promote Reciprocity and Charity

Katie Liljenquist, Chen-Bo Zhong & Adam Galinsky
Psychological Science, forthcoming

"Two experiments demonstrated that clean scents not only motivate clean behavior, but also promote virtuous behavior by increasing the tendency to reciprocate trust and to offer charitable help...The link from cleanliness to virtuous behavior appears to be a nonconscious one: in neither experiment did participants recognize an influence of scent on their behavior, and in Experiment 2, perceived cleanliness did not differ by condition nor correlate with the effects. These findings carry important implications for environmental regulation of behavior...By demonstrating that the association between morality and cleanliness is bidirectional, the current research identifies an unobtrusive way - a clean scent - to curb exploitation and promote altruism...The current findings suggest there is some truth to the claim that cleanliness is next to godliness; clean scents summon virtue, helping reciprocity prevail over greed, and charity over apathy."


The Prevalence of Lying in America: Three Studies of Self-Reported Lies

Kim Serota, Timothy Levine & Franklin Boster
Human Communication Research, January 2010, Pages 2-25

This study addresses the frequency and the distribution of reported lying in the adult population. A national survey asked 1,000 U.S. adults to report the number of lies told in a 24-hour period. Sixty percent of subjects report telling no lies at all, and almost half of all lies are told by only 5% of subjects; thus, prevalence varies widely and most reported lies are told by a few prolific liars. The pattern is replicated in a reanalysis of previously published research and with a student sample. Substantial individual differences in lying behavior have implications for the generality of truth-lie base rates in deception detection experiments. Explanations concerning the nature of lying and methods for detecting lies need to account for this variation.


The Effects of Priming Legal Concepts on Perceived Trust and Competitiveness, Self-Interested Attitudes, and Competitive Behavior

Mitchell Callan, Aaron Kay, James Olson, Novjyot Brar & Nicole Whitefield
Journal of Experimental Social Psychology, forthcoming

Socio-legal scholars have suggested that, as a ubiquitous social system, law shapes social reality and provides interpretive frameworks for social relations. Across 5 studies, we tested the idea that the law shapes social reality by fostering the assumptions that people are self-interested, untrustworthy, and competitive. In Studies 1 and 2, we found that people implicitly associated legal concepts with competitiveness. Studies 3 - 5 showed that these associations had implications for social perceptions, self-interested attitudes, and competitive behavior. After being primed with constructs related to the law, participants perceived social actors as less trustworthy and the situation as more competitive (Study 3), became more against a political issue when it conflicted with their normative self-interest (Study 4), and made more competitive choices during a prisoner's dilemma game when they believed that social relations were basically zero-sum in nature (Study 5). The implications and applications of these results are discussed.


Body art, deviance, and American college students

Jerome Koch, Alden Roberts, Myrna Armstrong & Donna Owen
Social Science Journal, forthcoming

This research examines the relationship between body art (tattoos and piercings) and deviance. With the increasing mainstream presence of visible tattoos and piercings among entertainers, athletes, and even in corporate boardrooms, we wonder the extent to which long-time enthusiasts and collectors regard the phenomenon as encroachment. We use sub-cultural identity theory to propose that individuals with increasing evidence of body art procurement will also report higher levels of deviant behavior in order to maintain and/or increase social distance from the mainstream. We tested this proposition by surveying 1753 American college students, asking them to report their level of body art acquisition and their history of deviance. Results indicate that respondents with four or more tattoos, seven or more body piercings, or piercings located in their nipples or genitals, were substantively and significantly more likely to report regular marijuana use, occasional use of other illegal drugs, and a history of being arrested for a crime. Less pronounced, but still significant in many cases, was an increased propensity for those with higher incidence of body art to cheat on college work, binge drink, and report having had multiple sex partners in the course of their lifetime.


Tattoo and piercing as signals of biological quality

Slawomir Koziel, Weronika Kretschmer & Boguslaw Pawlowski
Evolution and Human Behavior, forthcoming

Tattoos and non-conventional piercings are used in many societies. There are several social reasons for which people use these forms of body decorations (e.g., marking social status or signaling membership within a subculture). However, it is interesting why only some people within a group that uses body decoration as a badge of membership decide upon such decorations. Since both tattoos and piercings can present health risks (e.g., due to blood-borne disease transmission risk), we postulate that people who decide to have such a body decoration might have relatively higher biological quality and that tattoos/piercings can be an honest signal of genetic quality. The possible opposite hypothesis is the "attractiveness increase hypothesis," according to which people use body decorations to increase their own physical attractiveness or to hide some shortcomings in their appearance (e.g., low body symmetry). To test these hypotheses, we compared body fluctuating asymmetry, which is considered a good measure of developmental stability, between individuals wearing tattoos and/or non-conventional piercings (n=116) and a control group (without such body decorations) (n=86). We found that majority of the absolute and relative fluctuating asymmetry indices had significantly lower values in individuals with tattoos/piercings than in the control group. This effect was strongly driven by males. Higher body symmetry of the men having tattoo or piercing indicates that this type of body decoration in the western society can be related to the honest signal of biological quality only for men. We did not find support for the "attractiveness increase hypothesis" for either sex.


Blood donations as costly signals of donor qualityBlood donations as costly signals of donor quality

H. F. Lyle, E. A. Smith & R. J. Sullivan
Journal of Evolutionary Psychology, December 2009, Pages 263-286

This is the first empirical investigation of blood donations in evolutionary perspective. We examine blood donor and non-donor attitudes about health and injury risks, donor characteristics, and the social value of donor participation. We propose that blood donations may communicate qualities about donors to third parties. Observers may benefit from information about the donor's health, value as a reciprocal partner, and/or ability to endure what is perceived as an anxiety-provoking and risky experience. Donors may benefit from an enhanced reputation, which can lead to greater access to cooperative networks and high-quality partners. We found that participants recognized the need for blood and perceived blood donors as generous and healthy. Study results indicated that anxiety and the perceived risk of a negative health consequence dramatically affected the willingness of donors and non-donors to donate blood in the future. These findings support our hypothesis that the act of blood donation may signal adaptive information about donor quality to third parties.


Work ethic, protestantism, and human capital

Christoph Schaltegger & Benno Torgler
Economics Letters, forthcoming

Weber's contribution on Protestant work ethic has stimulated numerous social scientists. However, the question whether a Protestant specific work ethic exists at all is still rarely analysed. Our results indicate that work ethic is influenced by denomination-based religiosity and education.


"Do the Right Thing:" The Effects of Moral Suasion on Cooperation

Ernesto Dal Bó & Pedro Dal Bó
NBER Working Paper, December 2009

The use of moral appeals to affect the behavior of others is pervasive (from the pulpit to ethics classes) but little is known about the effects of moral suasion on behavior. In a series of experiments we study whether moral suasion affects behavior in voluntary contribution games and mechanisms by which behavior is altered. We find that observing a message with a moral standard according to the golden rule or, alternatively, utilitarian philosophy, results in a significant but transitory increase in contributions above the levels observed for subjects that did not receive a message or received a message that advised them to contribute without a moral rationale. When players have the option of punishing each other after the contribution stage the effect of the moral messages on contributions becomes persistent: punishments and moral messages interact to sustain cooperation. We investigate the mechanism through which moral suasion operates and find it to involve both expectation- and preference-shifting effects. These results suggest that the use of moral appeals can be an effective way of promoting cooperation.


Religiousness as a Cultural Adaptation of Basic Traits: A Five-Factor Model Perspective

Vassilis Saroglou
Personality and Social Psychology Review, forthcoming

Individual differences in religiousness can be partly explained as a cultural adaptation of two basic personality traits, Agreeableness and Conscientiousness. This argument is supported by a meta-analysis of 71 samples (N = 21,715) from 19 countries and a review of the literature on personality and religion. Beyond variations in effect magnitude as a function of moderators, the main personality characteristics of religiousness (Agreeableness and Conscientiousness) are consistent across different religious dimensions, contexts (gender, age, cohort, and country), and personality measures, models, and levels, and they seem to predict religiousness rather than be influenced by it. The copresence of Agreeableness and Conscientiousness sheds light on other explanations of religiousness, its distinctiveness from related constructs, its implications for other domains, and its adaptive functions.


Almost Pregnant: On Probabilism and its Moral Uses in the Social Sciences

Göran Duus-Otterström
Philosophy of the Social Sciences, December 2009, Pages 572-594

The turn from deterministic to probabilistic explanations has been used to argue that social science does not explain human action in ways that are incompatible with free will, since, according to some accounts of probabilism, causal factors merely influence actions without determining them. I argue that the notion of nondetermining causal influence is a multifaceted and problematic idea, which notably is unclear about whether the probability is objective or subjective, whether it applies to individual occurrences or merely to sets of occurrences, and whether it is possible for an occurrence to be "almost determined."

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