Disease-Avoidance Processes and Stigmatization: Cues of Substandard Health Arouse Heightened Discomfort With Physical Contact

Justin H. Park*, Florian Van Leeuwen, Ypapanti Chochorelou

*Corresponding author for this work

Research output: Contribution to journalArticleScientificpeer-review

Abstract

An evolutionary approach to stigmatization suggests that disease-avoidance processes contribute to some instances of social exclusion. Disease-avoidance processes are over-inclusive, targeting even non-threatening individuals who display cues of substandard health. We investigated whether such cues motivate avoidance of physical contact in particular. In Studies 1 and 2, targets with disease (e.g., leprosy) or atypical morphologies (e.g., amputated leg, obesity) were found to arouse differentially heightened discomfort with physical (versus nonphysical) contact, whereas a criminal target (stigmatized for disease-irrelevant reasons) was found to arouse elevated discomfort for both types of contact. Study 3 used a between-subjects design that eliminated the influence of extraneous factors. A diseased target was found to arouse differentially heightened discomfort with physical (versus nonphysical) contact, and to do so more strongly than any other type of target.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)212-228
Number of pages17
JournalJournal of Social Psychology
Volume153
Issue number2
DOIs
Publication statusPublished - 1 Mar 2013
Externally publishedYes

Keywords

  • disease avoidance
  • physical abnormality
  • physical appearance
  • physical contact
  • stigmatization
  • DISGUST
  • PREJUDICE
  • RESPONSES
  • MECHANISMS
  • ATTITUDES
  • CONTAGION
  • BEHAVIOR
  • PEOPLE
  • SELF
  • AIDS

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