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Thread: Disease Avoidance and Ethnocentrism: the Effects of Disease Vulnerability and Disgust

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    Disease Avoidance and Ethnocentrism: the Effects of Disease Vulnerability and Disgust

    Evolution and Human Behavior (Article in Press)

    Disease avoidance and ethnocentrism: the effects of disease vulnerability and disgust sensitivity on intergroup attitudes

    Carlos David Navarrete

    Abstract

    Extending a model relating xenophobia to disease avoidance [Faulkner, J., Schaller, M., Park, J. H., & Duncan, L. A. (2004). Evolved disease-avoidance mechanisms and contemporary xenophobic attitudes. Group Processes & Intergroup Relations, 7(4), 333–353.], we argue that both inter- and intragroup attitudes can be understood in terms of the costs and benefits of interacting with the in-group versus out-groups. In ancestral environments, interaction with members of the in-group will generally have posed less risk of disease transmission than interaction with members of an out-group, as individuals will have possessed antibodies to many of the pathogens present in the former, in contrast to those prevalent among the latter. Moreover, because coalitions are more likely among in-group members, the in-group would have been a potential source of aid in the event of debilitating illness. We conducted two online studies exploring the relationship between disease threat and intergroup attitudes. Study 1 found that ethnocentric attitudes increase as a function of perceived disease vulnerability. Study 2 found that in-group attraction increases as a function of disgust sensitivity, both when measured as an individual difference variable and when experimentally primed. We discuss these results with attention to the relationships among disease salience, out-group negativity, and in-group attraction.
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    Re: Disease avoidance and ethnocentrism: the effects of disease vulnerability and disgust

    Historically, we do know of instances where illnesses and diseases were spread by one group of people coming in contact with another group. For example, it is said how the explorers to America brought with them diseases that were contracted by the Native American Indians. Extending this to in-group/ out-group attitudes is a very interesting proposition, but I wonder in some ways if it is counterintuitive. By developing xenophobia towards an outgroup, when a member of this outgroup is encountered it would create great stress within a person. Stress has been found to (among other phisiological responses) supress the immune system. Contact with an outgroup member would then make the individual even more susceptible towards contracting an illness, than if there was a non-stressful/ non-xenophobic response. In a study Cohen, et. al. (1993) healthy individuals were tested for stress levels, had either a placebo or a cold virus dropped into their nose, and then quarentined. 82% of individuals who recieved the drop containing the virus became infected, but more high stressed individuals (compared with low stressed) developed a cold from it. The high stressed individuals were more susceptible to illness.

    Cohen, S., Tyrrell, D., Smith, A. (1993). Negative life events, perceived stress, negative affect, and susceptibility to the common cold. Journal of Personality and Social Psychology, 64 (1), 131-140.
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    AW: Disease avoidance and ethnocentrism: the effects of disease vulnerability and disgust

    I would even argue on that line that we might see different levels in different people. I think its similar to extreme extraversion, which would be not that advantageous in small natural groups, but can be even advantageous in a urban environment f.e.
    We have to distinguish between different social and ecological specialisations on that. In a city it would make no sense, if its about small groups of hunter-gatherers, things might be different though. But I wouldnt make big and definite conclusions from that so far.
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