People living in clean-smelling environments tend to be unconsciously fairer and more generous, researchers have proved. Ring a bell? It's actually the moral science lesson we all learnt as children - Cleanliness is next to Godliness.
Led by Brigham Young University professor, Katie Liljenquist, the research found a dramatic improvement in ethical behaviour with just a few spritzes of citrus-scented Windex.
The researchers see implications for workplaces, retail stores and other organizations that have relied on traditional surveillance and security measures to enforce rules.
"Companies often employ heavy-handed interventions to regulate conduct, but they can be costly or oppressive. This is a very simple, unobtrusive way to promote ethical behaviour," said Liljenquist.
And she suggested that the findings could be applied at home, too, saying: "Could be that getting our kids to clean up their rooms might help them clean up their acts, too."
The participants in the study engaged in several tasks, the only difference being that some worked in unscented rooms, while others worked in rooms freshly spritzed with Windex.
The researchers found that subjects in clean-scented rooms were less likely to exploit the trust of their partners.
When it came to the inclination towards charitable behaviour, the researchers observed that participants surveyed in a Windex-ed room were significantly more interested in volunteering with a campus organization for a Habitat for Humanity service project than those in a normal room.
In fact, more of Windex-ed room participants said they'd like to donate money for the charity as compared to those in a normal room.
"Basically, our study shows that morality and cleanliness can go hand-in-hand. Researchers have known for years that scents play an active role in reviving positive or negative experiences. Now, our research can offer more insight into the links between people's charitable actions and their surroundings," said a co-author of the study.
The study titled 'The Smell of Virtue' will be published in a forthcoming issue of Psychological Science.