Category Archives: Theme #4: HYGIENE

Cleanliness= Next to Godliness?

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http://www.guzer.com/pictures/disturbing-pregnant-gun.jpgI would seriously judge you right now if you don’t think there is something disturbing about this picture at all.

Isn’t it interesting how quickly we can judge people based on just their external appearance and their actions. I am more than certain that there are millions of stories running in your head right now about how this picture came about or what its trying to say. If not, I am pretty sure you’ve already settled on this man being a disgrace and that he may be out of his mind (sticking out a gun that way while having a pregnant woman in his arms).

Being Filipino, with a thriving interdependent and morally grounded culture, it would be normal for us to think that this image would be quite discomforting.

But, would you believe me when I say that this right here would twist your judgment altogether?

http://25.media.tumblr.com/tumblr_lrl41eWcTP1qm6haio1_400.jpg

That’s right, soap.

This is no figure of speech! Recent studies have in fact shown that there does exist a relationship between physical cleanliness and moral and spiritual purity in a number of cultures. A study conducted by Schnall,S., Benton, J., and Harvey, S. investigated on the effects of physical cleanliness on moral judgment. They worked around the findings of past studies that disgust would increase the severity of moral judgments and determined whether the reverse effect would take place: if cleanliness (signifying purity) would decrease the severity of moral judgments.

“Disgust” was said to be originally used to pertain to an emotion to protect the body from germs or other filthy objects. Eventually, its definition spread to moral and social domains. People from different cultures would now use this word to pertain to morally and socially disturbing situations. Hence, it is not grammatically incorrect if we say that Hayden Kho’s little video stint was disgusting.

The researchers carried out two experiments to see whether their hypothesis holds true. The first was done to test whether cleanliness induced any specific mood, and if there did exist a relationship between intuitive concepts and moral judgments; the second was done to investigate whether the physical act of cleansing would decrease the severity of moral judgments as compared to not being subjected to the behavior of cleansing.

Results show that emotion did not have an effect in their judgment. Instead, the act of being primed to words that are associated with cleanliness showed a direct effect on lessening the severity of their judgment. Actual washing of the hands (cleansing behavior) did show a significant effect on lessening the severity of moral judgment, compared to not washing your hands.

The researchers attribute this effect to the notion that purity acts as a “basic intuition when judging the moral quality of an action” (Schnall, Benton & Harvey, 2008). This notion of purity may stem from mere priming and acts of cleanliness. People tend to infer moral judgments based on intuitions, even though these intuitions have no relationship whatsoever to the moral topic at hand. Our ability to quickly judge or infer may actually take place outside the scheme of consciousness (Schnall, Benton & Harvey, 2008).

In other words: what you don’t know you know actually affects what you are likely to know (as right or wrong), you know?

How useful are their findings to our everyday life?! Who would’ve thought that the mere act of thinking about things related to cleanliness may already affect what you think is right and wrong? The effects of unconscious thoughts to our perception never seem to fail me.

Having said all that, here’s a little reminder of how you can lessen the severity of your moral judgment (aka what you do when you find out that your crush is actually evil):

 

Schnall,S., Benton, J., and Harvey, S (2008). With a Clean Conscience: Cleanliness Reduces the Severity of Moral Judgments. Psychological Science 19 (12) 1219-1222. DOI: 10.1111/j.1467-9280.2008.02227.x

 

 

 

 

Fragrances That Make Scents

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I don’t stick to one. I like novelty and being with just “the one” for a long time would tire and get me uninterested. On the average, it takes me just a month or two to go looking for a new one that would be enough stimulate my senses. Loyalty? Not my thing.

Before you think negatively of me and the quality of relationships I have, I want to make it clear that I was just talking about my preferences for shower gels. (Last time I’ve checked, there’s no psychological study relating shower gels and interpersonal relationships!) Yes, I don’t always use the same brand of shower gels. Usually, after consuming one bottle of a specific brand, I would go sniff bottles in the grocery with scents different from the previous one I had. The fragrance would be the first thing I check and the deciding factor in purchasing that specific brand. My current bottle has a coconut aroma to it. I also had brief but blissful experiences with aloe, vanilla, milk and oatmeal. I prefer these fragrances because they keep me feeling fresh all day, as if I just came out of the shower. For me, these shower gels are more than just cleansing agents but they can also effectively set and enhance my mood for the day.

My current scent: Coconut cream!

This type of reasoning for my vanity, in that a specific fragrance has mood altering effects, is congruent to the findings of a study done by Field and colleagues(2005). In their study, they have showed that a specific cosmetic scent, lavender, enhances relaxation. Through the use of both physiological and self-report measures, they have assessed the scent’s apparent effects.

The self-report measures administered involved scales that measure temporary anxiety levels (STAI), depressed mood states (POMS), and feelings of tension and alertness (visual analogue scale). Aside from these, the participants also performed math computations that test their speed and accuracy. The participants’ responses and scores before and after fragrance presentation were then compared. Physiological measures employed were EEG and EKG. Through these two, physiological responses were recorded before, during and after being presented with the shower gel.

Lavender scent can induce relaxation

The results of the tests supported the hypothesis that the scent does affect transient mood. The participants reported increased relaxation and decreased anxiety and depressed mood. The same results were also observed for the physiological measures. Decreased heart rate and activation of left frontal area associated with less depressed affect and greater approach behavior were determined through the EEG and EKG respectively. The performance on the math computation (i.e. improved time record) were also correlated with the experience of enhanced relaxation. Together, these results suggest that the lavender scent can induce relaxation and improve the mood of a perceiver.

It is interesting how we can have such great control over our mood experiences and yet there are times that we can’t help but lose our temper. Knowing these findings can make us better equipped for the next fit that we’ll have when things won’t go our way.

 

Also, this study got me interested to the other scents that may affect one’s mood. We might be encountering cinnamon and peppermint perfumes and body sprays in our local grocery stores soon as these scents were found to increase perceived alertness, decreased temporal demand and decreased frustration in driving scenarios( Raudenbush et al, 2009). Chemists and perfumer may also explore and breakdown the chemical components of sweat for this particular scent from male perspiration was actually found to affect the mood, brain activity and levels of sexual arousal of women (“The joys”, 2007). Another study, which I find very timely, found that certain fragrances increases the dancing activity and enjoyment in nightclubs. I wonder what scents I would be smelling tonight in Ignite: UP PUGAD Sayk’s Adhoc event at Fiamma.

Will ensnare my sense of smell in Ignite tonight! http://www.facebook.com/PugadADHOC

These are just some of the documented scents that have mood altering effects. With the variety of odorants that we can perceive, there may still be other scents out there that induce the same effects. And for this, scents and their effects are definitely scent-sational!

Field, T., Diego, M., Hernandez-Reif, M., Cisneros, W., Feijo, L., Vera, Y., & … Claire He, Q. (2005). Lavender Fragrance Cleansing Gel Effects on Relaxation. International Journal of Neuroscience, 115(2), 207-222. doi:10.1080/00207450590519175

Raudenbush, B., Grayhem, R., Sears, T., & Wilson, I. (2009). Effects of Peppermint and Cinnamon Odor Administration on Simulated Driving Alertness, Mood and Workload. North American Journal of Psychology, 11(2), 245-256.

The joys of sweating. (2007). Journal of Assisted Reproduction & Genetics, 24(5), 151. doi:10.1007/s10815-007-9117-x

I ain’t no Doctor Quack Quack!

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They say that an apple a day keeps the doctor away. Usually, I would agree that it’s best to follow this advice because going to the doctor is a scary thought. It usually starts with a series of tests. If you’re lucky(and healthy), you can get out of the sitch fast. But if you aren’t, you’d have to endure some scary talks with the doctor about your medical condition. Now THAT? It could be one of the most traumatizing talks of your life. But picture THIS: if your doctors look like as Dr. Mark Sloan(Mcsteamy) and Dr. Derek Shepherd(Mcdreamy) , would you even bother trying to keep them away?:”>

Meet McSteamy and McDreamy. They seriously can tie up my innards in all the wrong places and I won't care. Okay... maybe I will. But yeah :">

When I think of doctors, I usually associate the word with my favorite TV show, Grey’s Anatomy. In this TV Series, I get this vibe that doctors are the following: (1) cool, calm and collected under intense pressure, (2) addicted to coffee, (3) addicted to sex, and last but not the least, all of them are (4) physically attractive. Srsly. I think it’s not easy(and unfair!) to be hot and smart at the same time, but doctors in Grey’s Anatomy prove me wrong. Look at this picture, can you point out a cast member who’s physically appalling?

The answer is no. And that, in itself, created this thought in my mind that doctors need to look good. I mean, even if doctors are not blessed with the “hot” genes, they usually still present themselves well. Maganda manamit. Malinis. Mukhang may alam. Usually, people create ideologies of doctors in that specific manner. It all starts with the physical appearance of the person. So what happens when doctors fail to present themselves in a good manner? That was the question running in my mind when I came across this article by Rehman, S., Nietert, P., Cope, D., & Kilpatrick, A. in 2005 entitled “What to wear today? Effect of doctor’s attire on the trust and confidence of patients”.

The article answered my answer, and it gave me so much more than what I asked for. Basically, the objective of their study was to determine whether the way a doctor dresses is an important factor in the degree of trust and confidence among respondents. The method that the researchers used was through a survey form. It was intended for patients and visitors in the waiting room of an internal medicine outpatient clinic. Respondents completed a written survey after reviewing pictures of physicians in four different dress styles(business suit, professional attire with white coat, surgical scrubs, casual attire). Afterwards, the respondents were asked questions related to their preference for physician dress as well as their trust and willingness to discuss sensitive issues.

The results? Well they were what we would’ve expected, but no one was ever brave enough to blatantly say out loud. On all questions regarding physician dress style preferences, respondents significantly favored the professional attire with white coat (76.3%), followed by surgical scrubs (10.2%), business dress (8.8%), and casual dress (4.7%). Their trust and confidence was significantly associated with their preference for professional dress. In addition to that, respondents also reported that they were significantly more willing to share their social, sexual, and psychological problems with the physician who is professionally dressed.

This gives us the idea that the perception of “looking professional” can directly affect the doctor-patient relationship in many ways. This is particularly important especially if this preferred attire results in better adherence and thus positive health outcomes. It would be critical since the diagnosis is partly based on the medical history of the patient, which he/she will disclose to the doctor.

The study made me realize how much of a factor physical appearance, clothing, and general “look” can affect very important aspects of our lives-including our health. Imagine what would happen if you get to see a person who tells you he’s a doctor, while sporting an attire that’s similar to what this group of people are wearing:

Would you trust your deepest, darkest medical secrets if your doctor would dress up like that?

Thankfully, I don’t have to be mean and be judgmental based on the picture itself. The study actually provided me with an answer: OH HELLLLL NO. And even though we all try to treat everyone equally, we have to face the hard truth: How we present ourselves, in one way or another, will affect our interpersonal relationships, no matter what field that may be. Now that I know of this, I’m sure gonna try to take a look on my doctor the next time I visit her from head-to-toe. Who knows? If her look is Lookbook worthy, I might even share some secrets I’d never tell(You know you love me, xoxo gossip girl).;)

Rehman, S, Nietert, P, Cope, D & Kilpatrick, A. D. (2005). What to wear today? effect of doctor’s attire on the trust and confidence of patients. The American Journal of Medicine,118(11), 1279-1286. DOI: 10.1016/j.amjmed.2005.04.026

I Smell My Honey!

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Some people claim that being single is beautiful and fun. One can do whatever he or she pleases, with no commitments or promises to tie you down. More love can be given to the self; you do what you want and not what others want. You can have fun and just live your life. No need to go easy on the alcohol, or to update anyone with your every move. Single life rocks!  And this makes you proud.

 

All the single ladies, put your hands up!

Still, it is funny how you secretly squeal and smile while watching those movies or soaps with romantic scenes and feel a little sorry for yourself that there is no one you can kiss under the rain. Those cheesy chick flick movies actually make you wish that there is true love. Well to find it, you have to believe it exists. Then you have to find the one. Just anyone won’t do. I don’t think it’s entirely fair that others say that being too picky is the reason why you still don’t have a boyfriend or girlfriend.  There are just some people you will and will not get attracted to.

 What makes a person attractive? Every person has his or her personal “taste” or preference. Physically, I like guys who have nice hands, are taller than me, tanned, and physically fit. I don’t like weaklings who can’t even help themselves. Hopefully he is good in at least one sport. And he wouldn’t have bad breath or body odor.

 Come on. Who wants to hug someone who actually smells bad? And I like it when people (unintentionally) get to smell my hair and tell me it smells nice (I have been using the same conditioner ever since :P)

Never fails.

We like it when people smell good; it is pleasing to the senses. There is a reason why there are numerous brands of deodorants and anti-perspirants in the market. Yes, humans have their natural odor just like the other animals. It helps the male track the female and check whether the latter is already fertile. But in humans, those natural scents can be rather repulsive. A study conducted by Craig Roberts, Little, Lyndon, Roberts, Havlicek and Wright (2009) showed that one’s scent or odor can influence self-perceived attractiveness and self-confidence as well as other’s ratings of attractiveness. In their experiment, students from Liverpool University were asked to answer questionnaires measuring their self-perceived attractiveness and self-confidence before using a deodorant, 15 minutes after using it, and 48 hours after the application. The students were divided into two, with the first group using a deodorant that had the active ingredients for the fragrance and antimicrobial properties while the others group a deodorant without the said substances. Results showed that there was already a significant effect in self-confidence after 15 minutes for both designs, while self-perceived attractiveness only had a significant effect after 48 hours. The males were also rated by female participants through their pictures and video clips. Males in the group with the active ingredients were rated as more attractive than those in the other group, but there was no significant difference in their confidence rating.

 The participants in the group with the active ingredients felt better about them and carried themselves with more confidence. This trait is important for me in making oneself attractive. I don’t like guys who are timid and with low self-esteem.  Guys suddenly become good looking in my eyes if they walk with confidence.

 “Ang ganda ng tindig nya e!”

 This confidence can come from different factors, and odor is one of them. How we look at ourselves can affect how others see us in turn. This is why we should not take good hygiene for granted. It can help us in many ways, like making a good impression, getting a job, and even meeting your one and only!

Okay, maybe your top two 🙂

Roberts, S., Little, A. C., Lyndon, A. A., Roberts, J. J., Havlicek, J. J., & Wright, R. L. (2009). Manipulation of body odour alters men’s self-confidence and judgements of their visual attractiveness by women. International Journal of Cosmetic Science, 31(1), 47-54. doi:10.1111/j.1468-2494.2008.00477.x

Say Cheeeeeese! :D

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As they say, a big smile can surely brighten up one’s day. It can change another person’s mood and maybe elicit a whole lot of emotions mostly signifying happy, and positive affect – as the song goes “sa iyong ngiti…ako’y nahuhumaling…” (haha!)

                     

A genuine smile is accompanied by the movement of our facial muscles- the muscles of our eyes and of our mouth, which readily exposes our perfect set of teeth. When someone flashes a big smile at you (especially if he or she is your secret crushie), I would assume that you would surely smile back at him or her. But what if his or her smile looks like this (I hope not)?

I bet the saliency of the dental cavities, the yellow teeth, and bad oral hygiene got your attention and turn your upcoming big, genuine smile to a small, fake smile. Bad oral and dental hygiene ultimately influences how we perceive other people.

Several studies looked into how dental appearance affects perceptions of personal characteristics. One study by Kershaw, Newton and Williams looked into the perceptions of personal characteristics of female dental patients and its relationship with tooth color.

Their study involved 180 female participants who viewed one of six images of a man or a woman with three different dental statuses (unaltered, decayed or whitened teeth). The images were digitally altered to appear decayed or whitened. They were then asked to rate the person in the photo on four personality scales: social competence, intellectual ability, psychological adjustment, and relationship satisfaction.

Overall results show that decayed teeth appearance elicited more negative judgments across the four categories. The whitened teeth on the other hand, elicited more positive perceptions. This led them to conclude that teeth color has an influence on perceptions of personal characteristics.

Another study by Karunakaran, Gilbert, Asimakopoulou, and Newton looked into the influence of visible dental caries (aka dental cavities) on social judgments of attractiveness. This parallels the previous study since it investigates the influence of dental appearance on perceptions of personal characteristics. The personality scales they used were: social competence, intellectual ability, psychological adjustment, care ofown appearance and attractiveness.  However, this study took the attractiveness factor. Using different faces with different levels of attractiveness and dental appearance, they found out that individuals’ overall level of attractiveness is more important to a social judgment than their dental condition.

Previous research such as that of Kershaw, Newton and Williams had significant effects for dental appearance because they only used one face which made the dental differences salient. The association of tooth decay with poor hygiene could be basis for the participants’ negative appraisals of personality.

It is also important to note that salience affects where we focus our attention in social situations. Many other factors affect our perceptions such as our previous knowledge on social norms. Media plays a big role in this. Media heightens up this distinction between yellowish teeth, which is actually the teeth color of most people vs. the ideal pearly whites. Yellow teeth, or stained teeth get our attention more than others and thus associated later with negative personal characteristics.

In the end, I think we should just be careful in making judgments based on just one body part. This doesn’t mean we shouldn’t take care of our precious set of teeth. Oral hygiene is very important. Sooo, don’t forget to brush your teeth thrice a day and visit your friendly neighborhood dentist!

And maybe, the next time you say cheese with your set of healthy teeth, you might actually have hundreds of people smiling back at you (even your secret crushie).

  Kershaw, S., Newton, J.T., &  WilliamS, D.M. (2008). The influence of tooth colour on the perceptions of personal characteristics among female dental patients: comparisons of unmodified, decayed and ‘whitened’ teeth. British Dental Journal 204, E9. doi:10.1038/bdj.2008.134

Karunakaran, T., Gilbert, D., Asimakopoulou, K., & Newton, T. (2011).The influence of visible dental caries on social judgements and overall facial attractiveness amongst undergraduates. J.Dent 39(3), 212-7.

 

B.O. my gosh!

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Have you ever been in the jeep or the MRT during rush hour, where you had to sit or stand really close to the next passenger, and you had the utmost displeasure of having to endure their smell for the whole ride? It’s usually enough to get you in a foul mood that it’s warm and humid and too cramped, but when you add body odor to the list, it’s enough to send you over the edge!

 

Personally, body odor is one of the things that I really cannot tolerate. I find it really repulsive, and I tend to just move away from that person, if it’s not possible to hold my breath that long. Aside from being unpleasant, I also feel a sense of automatic negative judgment against the person. Even though he or she is my friend and though he or she may be the nicest and most righteous person on the planet, having body odor could stain someone’s image. It’s just something that should not be there!

According to a study by Low (2006), smell serves as an agent with regard to the body, presentation of self, and even social or moral order. By employing an analysis of narrative interviews with a sociological approach, his findings showed that foul odors are equated with social and moral defilement. This is because the body symbolizes personhood, either representing the ability to take care of oneself or failing to do so. In this sense, people who emit unpleasant bodily odors are perceived to commit social defilement and thus induce rejection from others.

 

He also discusses this olfactory impropriety as a social stigma, which arises as intertwined with other social categories like class, race, and nationality. He goes further by introducing the concept of olfactory civil inattention, a method of dealing with olfactory defilement, where one remains tactful in the face of olfactory offensiveness in order to maintain social order. This is shown by people’s nonchalance as they choose not to confront a bad-smelling individual because the presence of body odor garners negative reactions. Personally, I found this concept quite accurate. We would rather avoid talking to a person with bad breath rather than tell him that he smells bad. Aside from a possible awkward conversation, confronting the matter might even lead to offending a person or losing a friend.

 

In addition, Low presents several “corrective” techniques based on the interviews, showing that most of the respondents considered bathing and putting on perfume and other products mainly as ways to smell good, and as a need for hygiene only secondarily. This showed that self-care regimes are not merely for cleansing oneself, but are also linked to how we present ourselves to others. Likewise, I agree with this idea because for me personally, I do not only take a bath for myself, but also as a sort of courtesy to others because taking a bath benefits not only myself but others who are in my presence as well.

Another interesting thing about this study is that it was done in the context of Singapore, which has the CMIO (Chinese, Malay, Indian, Others) racial model. This was done so that the research could be applied to Southeast Asia as a whole. Although this strategy seemed effective as reflected in the interviews of the respondents, I was a bit apprehensive about how generalizable it really is in the context of the whole Southeast Asian region. I have been to Singapore, and for me personally, the general threshold of detecting body odors seems higher there than it is here in the Philippines. I felt like people in the Philippines smell much better than those in Singapore, because travelling in their train stations and visiting their malls exposed me to unpleasant smells that, I felt, are not as strong nor as frequent in the Philippines.

 

Overall, I felt that Low’s study shed some considerable light on how smells, particularly bodily smells, play a role in our lives. They are not merely stimuli which are present in our surroundings, but a dynamic concept which involves our actions and abilities to meet certain social expectations. Also, at first I felt like I was so ruthless in my sensitivity towards body odor, but I realized through reading some excerpts from the interviews that other people feel that way too. It is not being overly sensitive that we turn away from unpleasant smelling people regardless of their characteristics because it is truly something aversive across different cultures and peoples.

It is interesting to study how certain smells can have such a huge impact on our day-to-day experiences. The sense of smell is probably the most downplayed (for lack of a better word) among all five senses as it is very intangible and fleeting. And yet, what a difference it makes! The mere smell of bad breath or body odor is enough for us to stay away from someone, even our friends.

As distasteful as this article may appear to be (because it’s all about body odor), it has made me more interested and fascinated with the sense of smell!

(One of these days perhaps I will watch “Perfume” again. This is a wonderful movie about olfaction!)