Germs may not be the only things you're washing away at the sink.
Washing one's hands may also give the feeling of washing away your sins or cleansing a dirty conscience, reveals a new report in the journal Science.
Physical cleanliness is linked to moral or spiritual cleanliness in religions and cultures worldwide.
Scientists have finally put that concept to the test and have found that physical and moral purity are indeed psychologically intertwined — and sometimes even interchangeable.
"Showering — a simple everyday activity — is linked to morality in a way we never knew," said study co-author Katie Liljenquist of Northwestern University.
Liljenquist and her colleagues were inspired to research the phenomenon of the sense of linkage between physical cleanliness and morality after remarking that movie characters almost always showered after committing a heinous crime.
"Showering can feel so good," Liljenquist said, "like it's more than something physical. We wondered if there was something more to that," reports ABC News.
According to Cosmoc, physical and moral purity are psychologically intertwined – even interchangeable in some cases, new research shows.
“Lady Macbeth’s hope that a little bit of water would clear her of the treacherous murder of King Duncan might not have been a product of literary creativity, but of Shakespeare’s acute understanding of the psyche,” write Chen-Bo Zhong of the University of Toronto in Ontario, and Katie Liljenquist of Northwestern University in Chicago.
They refer to the famous scene in Shakespeare’s Macbeth, where Lady Macbeth - wracked with guilt at her crimes - tries to wash away her sins along with imaginary bloodstains on her hands.