Clean Room, Moral Thoughts: The Effect of the Physical Environment on Memory and Moral Action

Samantha Walker, The College of Wooster


Recent research suggests abstract and concrete thought are strongly linked. The theory of embodied cognition asserts that many aspects of the mind are shaped by the body and the senses. Currently there is evidence that morality and physical cleanliness are distinctly linked in thought processes; so much so that a clean environment may be able to alter thought in a moral way. In this study, 44 College of Wooster students were tested in either a clean or dirty environment to examine how the condition of the room could affect word recall and trusting behavior. Participants were first given a personality and values survey and a word recall exercise, which consisted of dirty, clean, moral, immoral, and control words. Finally they were given a trust exercise. The results were analyzed and the condition of the room did not have a significant effect on the participants. Lack of significance may have resulted because the stimulus manipulation was too weak.