Hey, it’s easy, so why fight it?
It’s not all good news. In studying how physical cleansing affects us after failure, the results showed that test subjects who washed their hands after a task were more optimistic than those who did not wash their hands, but it hampered their future performance in the same task domain.
Basically, while physical cleansing after failure may eliminate negative feelings, it reduces the motivation to try harder in a new test situation to restore one’s own perception of competence. Trade optimism for motivation.
Dr. Kai Kaspar from the University of Cologne studied three groups. Two groups of participants attempted to solve an impossible task, then were instructed to wash their hands or not afterward. Both groups were optimistic that they would do better the second time, but the optimism in those who washed their hands was much greater.
Then, the surprise: the subjects who did not wash their hands (less optimistic) did considerably better than the group who washed their hands. Adding in the third group, who had not experienced failure and only attempted to solve the impossible task once, the performance of those who had washed their hands was on the level of the third group.
There’s more research to be done, but it looks like there’s a suggestion that you actually can wash away a negative experience … simply through the act of washing your hands!