Lady Macbeth effect
The supposed Lady Macbeth effect or Macbeth effect is a priming effect said to occur when response to a cleaning cue is increased after having been induced by a feeling of shame. The effect is named after the Lady Macbeth character in the Shakespeare play Macbeth; she imagined bloodstains on her hands after committing murder.
In one experiment, different groups of participants were asked to recall a good or bad past deed, after which they were asked to fill in the letters of three incomplete words: "W_ _H", "SH_ _ER" and "S_ _P". Those who had been asked to recall a bad deed were about 60% more likely to respond with cleansing-related words like "wash", "shower" and "soap" instead of alternatives such as "wish", "shaker" or "stop".
The effect is apparently localized enough that those who had been asked to lie verbally preferred an oral cleaning product and those asked to lie in writing preferred a hand cleaning product over the other kind of cleanser and other control items.
Other researchers have been unable to replicate the basic effect using larger samples. Replication difficulties have emerged for three out of four of Zhong and Liljenquist's original studies (i.e., Study 2, Study 3, and Study 4).
- Zhong, Chen-Bo; Katie Liljenquist (2006). "Washing Away Your Sins: Threatened Morality and Physical Cleansing". Science. 313 (5792): 1451–1452. doi:10.1126/science.1130726. PMID 16960010.
- Lee, Spike W. S.; Norbert Schwarz (2010). "Washing away postdecisional dissonance". Science. 328 (5979): 709. doi:10.1126/science.1186799. PMID 20448177.
- Lee, Spike W. S.; Norbert Schwarz (2010). "Dirty Hands and Dirty Mouths: Embodiment of the Moral-Purity Metaphor Is Specific to the Motor Modality Involved in Moral Transgression". Psychological Science. 21: 1423–1425. doi:10.1177/0956797610382788. PMID 20817782.
- Fayard, Jennifer; et al. (2009). "Is cleanliness next to godliness? Dispelling old wives' tales: Failure to replicate Zhong and Liljenquist (2006)" (PDF). Journal of Articles in Support of the Null Hypothesis. 6: 21–30.
- Earp, B. D., Everett, J. A. C., Madva, E. N., & Hamlin, J. K. (in press). Out, damned spot: Can the "Macbeth Effect" be replicated? Basic and Applied Social Psychology, in press. Article available here: https://www.academia.edu/4336726/Out_damned_spot_Can_the_Macbeth_Effect_be_replicated