The behavioral immune system is designed to avoid infected individuals, not outgroups

F. van Leeuwen, M. Bang Petersen

Research output: Contribution to journalArticleScientificpeer-review

Abstract

What is the adapted structure of the behavioral immune system? By definition, the behavioral immune system motivates pathogen avoidance. One prominent suggestion is that the behavioral immune system also contains an additional component that generates motivation to avoid individuals from unfamiliar outgroups. The evolvability of this component has recently been questioned, however, and it has been noted that all supportive evidence stems from WEIRD samples. In this paper, we conducted between-subject experiments in large samples of adult residents of the USA (N = 1615) and India (N = 1969). In the experiment, we measured comfort with physical contact with a depicted individual. The individual was either from an ethnic ingroup or outgroup and either showed a pathogen cue or not. Results were inconsistent with the view that the behavioral immune system motivates the avoidance of individuals from unfamiliar outgroups. Instead, the results strongly supported that the system simply motivates the avoidance of any infected individual regardless of their group membership.
Keywords: behavioral immune system; pathogen avoidance; disgust; social cognition; stigma; prejudice
Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)226-234
JournalEvolution and Human Behavior
Volume39
Issue number2
DOIs
Publication statusPublished - 2018

Fingerprint

immune system
Immune System
pathogen
cognition
Cues
experiment
Avoidance
Experiment

Keywords

  • ATTITUDES
  • Behavioral immune system
  • DISEASE-AVOIDANCE
  • DISGUST SENSITIVITY
  • Disgust
  • ETHNOCENTRISM
  • MECHANISMS
  • OUT-GROUPS
  • PARASITE-STRESS
  • PEOPLE
  • PERSONALITY
  • Pathogen avoidance
  • Prejudice
  • STIGMATIZATION
  • Social cognition
  • Stigma

Cite this

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title = "The behavioral immune system is designed to avoid infected individuals, not outgroups",
abstract = "What is the adapted structure of the behavioral immune system? By definition, the behavioral immune system motivates pathogen avoidance. One prominent suggestion is that the behavioral immune system also contains an additional component that generates motivation to avoid individuals from unfamiliar outgroups. The evolvability of this component has recently been questioned, however, and it has been noted that all supportive evidence stems from WEIRD samples. In this paper, we conducted between-subject experiments in large samples of adult residents of the USA (N = 1615) and India (N = 1969). In the experiment, we measured comfort with physical contact with a depicted individual. The individual was either from an ethnic ingroup or outgroup and either showed a pathogen cue or not. Results were inconsistent with the view that the behavioral immune system motivates the avoidance of individuals from unfamiliar outgroups. Instead, the results strongly supported that the system simply motivates the avoidance of any infected individual regardless of their group membership.Keywords: behavioral immune system; pathogen avoidance; disgust; social cognition; stigma; prejudice",
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author = "{van Leeuwen}, F. and {Bang Petersen}, M.",
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language = "English",
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The behavioral immune system is designed to avoid infected individuals, not outgroups. / van Leeuwen, F.; Bang Petersen, M.

In: Evolution and Human Behavior, Vol. 39, No. 2, 2018, p. 226-234.

Research output: Contribution to journalArticleScientificpeer-review

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