Contamination without contact: An examination of intention-based contagion

O. Stavrova, George Newman, Anna Kulemann, Detlef Fetchenhauer

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Abstract

Contagion refers to the belief that individuals or objects can acquire the essence of a particular source, such as a disgusting product or an immoral person, through physical contact. This paper documents beliefs in a "contact-free" form of contagion whereby an object is thought to inherit the essence of a person when it was designed, but never actually physically touched, by the individual. We refer to this phenomenon as contagion through creative intent or "intention-based contagion" and distinguish it from more traditional forms of contact-based contagion (Studies 1 and 2), as well as alternative mechanisms such as mere association (Studies 2 and 3a). We demonstrate that, like contact-based contagion, intention-based contagion results from beliefs in transferred essence (Study 1) and involves beliefs in transfer of actual properties (Study 4). However, unlike contact-based contagion, intention-based contagion does not appear to be as strongly related to the emotion of disgust (Study 1) and can influence evaluations in auditory as well as visual modalities (Studies 3a--3c).
Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)554-571
JournalJudgment and Decision Making
Volume11
Issue number6
Publication statusPublished - Nov 2016

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