“So that’s why Pontius Pilate washed his hands – it can help ease niggling doubts about decisions”

If you have made a difficult decision and want to stick to it, go and wash your hands.

A study has revealed that hand washing, long associated with absolving the mind of guilt, can also erase any doubts about everyday choices.

The latest research, reported in the journal Science, looked at whether the phenomenon extends to decisions with little or no moral implications by asking a set of volunteers to pick between two CDs or two jams.

Scientists found the 40 volunteers were less likely to try to justify their choice if they washed their hands just after making it.

On Monday afternoon officers from the corporation handed activists letters giving them 48 hours to clear away tents. If, as seems inevitable, this does not happen, court action will start on Wednesday, although the complex case could drag on for several months.

While the cathedral still supports legal action, Chartres said the chapter “would not condone the use of violence in effecting any expulsion”.

Asked about the apparent contradiction in this, he said only: “Who knows what is going to happen?”

News of Knowles’s resignation was announced at one of the camp’s regular mass meetings, prompting a loud cheer. However the activists, part of a global wave of similar occupations against the perceived excesses of the global finance system, are keen that the travails of the church do not obstruct their primary targets.

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