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Physical Cleansing Affects Risk-Taking Behavior

What interested you in this journal article? How did you go about finding the article?

I was going through the various online psychology academic journals, trying to find out which ones had more material relevant to my course, and in the process, I came across the article titled Washing away your (good or bad) luck: Physical cleansing affects risk-taking behavior (Xu, Zwick, and Schwarz, 2011). The article was published in the journal for experimental psychology, and I took particular interest in it because the topic of discussion was uniquely based on the fact that it fundamentally set out to either test out a hypothesis that linked beliefs and physical cleanliness.

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What is the background/history of the hypothesis?

The discussion and subsequent experiment are based on the premise that most beliefs of superstition hold it that luck, both bad and good, can be washed away. From the background information unearthed by the researchers, in any superstitious society, there are individuals who believe that they can improve their luck by coming into contact with people who are believed to be natural lucky or their objects (Xu, Zwick, and Schwarz, 2011). In the same way, the superstitious individuals believe that they can change their luck by sampling partaking in a specific cleansing activity, such as bathing.

What type of experiment did the authors use? Do they explain why they used this type of experiment?

For the first section of this two-part experiment, the researchers took the test subjects through a three-step procedure that sought to link their memory of luck to risk-taking. In the first stage of the experiment, the subjects were asked to recall an incident of good/bad luck in their lives. This step was meant to manipulate their perception of both good and bad luck. The second step of the experiment was to get the subjects to cleanse their hands without realizing that it was part of an experiment. For this purpose, some trickery was used. The subjects were provided with wet wipes and were informed that they were part of a group reviewing the product.

Over 50% of the subjects reviewed the wipes without trying them out, while the other 50% used the wipes to cleanse their hands. The third part of the experiment was meant to test the subjects’ risk-taking tendencies. Here the subjects were assigned a managerial role that required them to take a particular risk. The subjects were assigned the role of the head of a computer manufacturing institution. They were then required to decide on whether to implement a product-improvement suggestion by their R&D office. Implementing the change would cost the company a hefty amount, but if accepted by the consumer, it would bring in an equally impressive return.

In the second part of the experiment, the participants were given $100 and asked to use it in gambling. The gambling was conducted in four rounds. After the first three rounds, the subjects were given a soap and asked to review it, without being told that this was part of the experiment. After the soap review, the participants were then taken through the fourth round of gambling.

What were the results of the study?

From the two experiments, the researchers found out that a majority of the people who recalled (part 1) or experience (part2) were more willing to make a risky decision after washing their hands. On the other hand, persons who had remembered or went through recent good luck were not very committed to taking risks after having washed their hands (Xu, Zwick, and Schwarz, 2011).

Can you find any other problems/flaws/pitfalls with their experimental study that they did not point out at the end of the article?

One of the loopholes that presented in this experiment was in the cleansing part. Because the participants were informed that what they were taking part in was a product review, there are a number of them who just skipped out on the cleansing because they found it a tedious process and not necessarily linked to their luck.

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What thoughts do you have on the topic after reading the article?

After reading this topic, I am quite convinced that individuals believe their luck can be washed away, but I will need to read more scholarly works on the topic.

Reference List

Xu, A. J., Zwick, R., & Schwarz, N. (2011). Washing Away Your (Good or Bad) Luck: Physical Cleansing Affects Risk-Taking Behavior. Journal of Experimental Psychology, 1(13), 1-5. Web.

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