Why does it always seem to rain after a car wash?

Or does it really?
by Vernon B. Sarne | Jul 31, 2016

Are you one of the many car owners who somehow get the sense that it always rains after you give your beloved vehicle a wash? We ask because it's rainy season once more, and chances are you're getting this sense more often these days. Well, there are two things we'd like to tell you.

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First is that it isn't true. For this phenomenon to be true, it would have to rain 24/7 just to satisfy the statistical requirement for everyone. Because there's some car being washed someplace all the time. So logic--or mathematical probability--alone should tell us that the perception doesn't hold water.

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Second is that there's an explanation for it. While the feeling isn't valid, there's a reason why it exists. We're not psychologists, but we're sure the memory of a disappointment sticks to us longer than that of routine stuff. After all, throwing away P100 or P150 for a wash which a sudden downpour negates is pretty noteworthy.

According to Dr. Shahram Heshmat, an associate professor emeritus at the University of Illinois at Springfield, people remember things based on "mood memory." He explains in this Psychology Today article (in italics):

Our current emotional state facilitates recall of experiences that had a similar emotional tone. When we are in a happy mood, we tend to recall pleasant events and vice versa. This is because moods bring different associations to mind. For example, recalling positive childhood experiences while in a good mood. Being in a bad mood primes a person to think about negative things.

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In other words, every time it rains after a car wash, you recall the exact same feeling of frustration you had the last time it happened--even if it took place a long time ago, and even if said occurrence doesn't really happen often.

So there. We hope we've been able to shed some measure of enlightenment on this amusing phenomenon.


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