University of Worcester Worcester Research and Publications

Investigating Behaviour and Face Encoding in a Hypothetical Real-World Social Contract: Handwashing in Hazardous Health Settings

Felisberti, F.M. and Farrelly, Daniel ORCID: (2016) Investigating Behaviour and Face Encoding in a Hypothetical Real-World Social Contract: Handwashing in Hazardous Health Settings. Evolutionary Psychological Science, 2 (3). pp. 207-213. ISSN Online: 2198-9885

Felisberti, F. M., & Farrelly, D. (2016).pdf - Accepted Version
Available under License Creative Commons Attribution Non-commercial No Derivatives.

Download (495kB) | Preview


Investigations into the evolutionary origins of human cognition has shown that individuals’ memory for others is influenced by the latter’s behaviour in social contracts. Such research is primarily based on hypothetical or more abstract forms of social contracts, whereas an application of this knowledge to everyday health behaviours can be of great value. To address this, the current study investigated whether participants who were asked to imagine themselves in a hypothetical hazardous health scenario showed differential response sensitivity (d’) and latency (RT) to faces of hospital staff tagged with contrasting hand hygiene before touching patients: clean hands, dirty hands, or unknown hand-washing behaviour (control). The test used a two alternative forced-choice (2AFC: “old/new”) face recognition paradigm. The findings showed that d’ to dirty and clean hands was similar, but higher than for controls. Moreover, d’ was not affected by the occupation of hospital staff (nurses vs porters). The absence of memory gains towards clean or dirty hands points to the need for new strategies to remind patients to observe (and remember) the hand hygiene of others when exposed to hazardous health environments.

Item Type: Article
Additional Information:

This article is published with open access at

Uncontrolled Discrete Keywords: hand hygiene, cheater detection, face recognition, healthcare, memory
Subjects: B Philosophy. Psychology. Religion > BF Psychology
Divisions: College of Business, Psychology and Sport > School of Psychology
Related URLs:
Copyright Info: Open Access journal article
Depositing User: Daniel Farrelly
Date Deposited: 17 May 2016 11:26
Last Modified: 17 Jun 2020 17:11

Actions (login required)

View Item View Item
Worcester Research and Publications is powered by EPrints 3 which is developed by the School of Electronics and Computer Science at the University of Southampton. More information and software credits.