Giuseppina Speltini Stefano Passini Davide Morselli

About cleanliness: representations and values

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In the framework of social representation, this research explores how the concept of cleanness does not refer solely to individual hygienic praxes and thoughts, but it is also linked to social and cultural aspects. In this way, the definitions of what is dirty and what is clean, what is pure and what is impure, are linked to social discrimination attitudes, based for example on the fear for contamination. Our general hypothesis is that the representations of dirt/cleanness and purity/impurity define ideas and praxes linked to personal hygiene, but refer also to the way people interact with the world and the others. Hence, we hypothesize that the representations of dirt/cleanness and purity/impurity are linked to values and political and religious orientations. A questionnaire with closed-answer questions and a free association task were distributed to 450 subjects. Results show how, in effects, the concepts of dirt/cleanness, purity/ impurity skip from their daily praxis connotations and assume a symbolic function for discriminating between individuals and social groups.


  • Cleanliness
  • purity
  • social representations
  • values
  • prejudice


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