The University of Toronto’s Student Newspaper Since 1880

Using hand wipes can shift your goals

U of T study finds that cleansing affects not only physical domains but psychological ones as well

Using hand wipes can shift your goals

A new study by U of T PhD Student Ping Dong and Assistant Professor Spike W. S. Lee posits that hand wipes may be used for more than on-the-go cleaning. Their research, published in the Journal of Experimental Psychology earlier this year, revealed that physical cleansing reorients goals and shifts priorities.

Dong and Lee investigated four different groups ranging from 103 to 242 undergraduate students. The subjects were divided into two categories: those who were given hand wipes and those who were not. Both groups were primed to focus on certain goals by completing word games or short surveys.

The results of these four experiments demonstrated that the use of hand wipes made prior goals seem less important than subsequent ones. “This research extends the logic of previous studies showing that physical cleansing can reduce the influence of numerous psychological experiences,” Dong wrote in an email to The Varsity.

Dong and her colleague had observed certain behaviours relating to hand cleaning that inspired them to conduct this research. “Wash their hands, and people feel less guilty about their immoral behavior… Use some soap and people feel like they’ve washed away their good luck from their winning streak in gambling.”

“Our conceptual hypothesis was that there’s one common mechanism underlying all these different cleansing effects across domains,” Dong explained. “Specifically, cleansing should function as what we call an ‘embodied procedure of psychological separation.’”

Physical cleansing detaches traces, such as dirt, from target objects, like hands. This resembles the psychological separation of previous experiences from the present self. Dong and Lee’s research provided evidence supporting this theoretical account in the context of pursuing goals.

Their paper, unlike its predecessors, shows “that a bodily experience like cleansing not only activated metaphorically associated concepts like morality, but functions as a highly domain-general procedure.” This means that cleansing is not specific to physical domains, but also influences psychological ones.

The research predicts that using hand sanitizers, wipes, or other forms of physical cleansers will ease the switch between tasks that require different mental procedures. “[People] become less influenced by past primes but more influenced by future ones,” Dong said.

The study has some limitations, according to Dong. The participants were solely undergraduate students, rather than the general public. The importance of goals was measured immediately after physical cleansing so the short-term nature of the experiment may have also restricted its results. Long-term effects were not examined.

Dong, who will join Northwestern University’s Kellogg School of Management as an assistant professor of marketing in September 2017, emphasized that in business settings or organizations, both the managers and employees must often shift between several goals.

“Little help is available from empirical work, as it has yet to identify any temporary manipulation for enhancing [the] ability [to shift between multiple tasks],” she said. “Given what we found, we suggest that physical cleansing may be a handy way to help people adjust their goal pursuit effectively.”

Confederate flags at Highland Creek Heritage Festival prompt complaints

UTSC, SCSU condemn incident

Confederate flags at Highland Creek Heritage Festival prompt complaints

A car with two Confederate flag decals and a Confederate license plate parked at the Highland Creek Heritage Festival (HCHF) in Scarborough on June 17 has prompted complaints from some members in the community.

Local resident Ybia Anderson, visiting the event with her son for the first time, found the car in question, a replica of ‘General Lee’ from Dukes of Hazzard, and approached festival staff to ask that the car be removed. Anderson then began to livestream her confrontation with an alleged friend of the car’s owner and festival staff.

Speaking about the incident, U of T Scarborough Campus Students’ Union (SCSU) President Sitharsana Srithas said, “There wasn’t any kind of complaint process, or any anti-harassment officers present, or decompression spaces. There [aren’t] any measures put in place to address an issue like this… It just added to the stereotype that this was just an angry Black woman, which is not the case.”

Following online response to Anderson’s livestream, the HCHF organizers posted an apology to their Facebook page. “We regret that any person was made to feel unwelcome at our event,” wrote Paul Maguire, Chair of the HCHF organizing committee. “Having identified the problem, we resolve to strive for greater sensitivity and preparation in the future.”

In response to the apology, the SCSU wrote an open letter addressed to both the HCHF and UTSC, a community partner to the event. One of the letter’s demands is for the UTSC to “take proactive measures to ensure that inclusivity is prioritized among their future community partners.”

“As a community, we have to hold ourselves accountable and we have to set the standards of what’s acceptable and what’s not. And unless we make that very clear, I feel like it will continue to happen and it will eventually be normalized,” Srithas told The Varsity.

“As one of many sponsors of this year’s festival we were deeply embarrassed and chagrined by the appearance of such a hateful symbol,” Don Campbell, a Media Relations Officer at UTSC, told The Varsity.

Campbell reiterated that the festival organizers, all of whom are volunteers, immediately issued a public statement of condemnation. “We are confident that they are sincere in this commitment,” he said.

Bruce Kidd, Principal of UTSC, added that “as a university, we will continue to do everything we can to ensure that all persons are welcomed and can participate in our community without distinction, and afforded the dignity of an environment free of hateful images.”

Scarborough residents have also been writing to their representatives, including City Councillor Neethan Shan, asking for some answers. Shan agrees that these questions need answers, and addressed the festival organizers in his own open letter.

“It’s not just me as a councillor wanting this, I’m just standing up for what some of the community members have written out and telling me, including people who live in Ward 44,” Shan said. “There’s been histories where deliberate attempts to exclude people, deliberate attempts to oppress people, deliberate attempts to exploit and influence people have happened.”

“[The Confederate] flag has a longstanding history of slavery, has a longstanding history of racism, has a longstanding history of white supremacy,” Srithas said. “And Scarborough is one of the most diverse communities, I would argue, in the province so to have something like this is not understanding the community you are throwing this event for in the first place.”

The HCHF did not respond to The Varsity’s request for comment.