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Compromised decision making and the effects of manipulating physical states on human judgments



Objectives: Nonmorally based decision making between two equitable objects often involves degrading the unchosen object and promoting the chosen object (“postdecisional dissonance”). One can extinguish these thought processes with the physical act of hand-washing (“clean slate” effects; [Lee & Schwarz (2010). Washing away postdecisional dissonance. Science, 328, 709.]). However, clean slate effects might not characterize all nonmorally based decision making, particularly for people who mentally “get stuck” making decisions (i.e., compromised decision making). Design: We administered a clean slate task to 48 undergraduates (64.6% females; mean = 21.34 years, standard deviation = 4.06 years; 75% Caucasian), and identified individuals reporting relatively high-compromised versus low-compromised decision making (e.g., self-reported repetitive thought processes and generalized anxiety symptoms). Results: Only individuals reporting relatively high-compromised decision making continued to express postdecisional dissonance even after hand-washing. Conclusions: Behavioral markers of clean slate effects might result in identifying phenotypes associated with psychological concerns typified by compromised decision making. © 2011 Wiley Periodicals, Inc. J Clin Psychol 68:1–7, 2012.