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Lady Macbeth Just Won’t Make Her Exit; Now She’s A Syndrome


Anybody who has wended his or her way through the linguistic excellences and frequently petulant schemers in Shakespeare’s plays longs, at some point, to say to Lady Macbeth herself, “Out, out, damned spot!” After all, how much can anyone take of such a relentlessly scheming prod to the plot of Duncan’s uninvited demise and Macbeth’s unmotivated remorse. Perhaps Macbeth’s own murderously ambitious temperament can be traced to having to live with such a harridan.

At any rate, the bad news for us is that the unpleasant lady just won’t make her exit. Now, some behavioral researchers, in a bit of a stretch to lend cultural embellishment to their not-entirely-revelatory discovery, have named a syndrome in her dishonor.

It appears that people who do things they consider wrong, such as lying, cheating, or stealing your identity, often feel better after they wash their hands. Apparently, a lot of these guilt-ridden malefactors wash their hands with manic frequency.

In an article that appears in the journal Science, Chen-Bo Zhong and co-author Katie Liljenquist say, “The association between moral and physical purity has been taken for granted for so long that it was startling that no one had ever shown empirical evidence of it.”

Now unladylike Macbeth makes her regrettable entrance.

The researchers have decided to call the urge to wash the “Macbeth effect,” after the scene in which, as we’ve all known since we held our palms to our mouths in high school at her awful example of adult misbehavior, Lady Macbeth, looking at her dye-besotted hands, calls, “Out, damned spot! Out, I say!”

“We do believe there might be limits to how well simple hand washing can clean your slate,” Chen-Bo said, “but it remains to be seen where that limit is.”

The effort to cleanse is an aspect of what psychologists consider compensatory behavior.

In a stretch of our own, maybe that’s why talk show hosts often like to hideout on the weekend. They’ve spent so much time talking to people like Chen-Bo Zhong they just need to wash those folks right out of their hair.

Submitted by:

Tom Attea

Tom Attea, humorist and creator of http://NewsLaugh.com, has had six shows produced Off-Broadway. Critics have called his writing "delightfully funny," "witty," with "great humor and ebullience" and "good, genuine laughs."





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