Researchers have proposed that intergroup prejudice is partially caused by behavioral immune system mechanisms. Across four studies (total N = 1,849), we used both experimental (pathogen priming) and individual differences (pathogen disgust sensitivity [PDS]) approaches to test whether the behavioral immune system influences prejudice toward immigrants indiscriminately (the generalized out-group prejudice hypothesis) or specifically toward immigrants from a pathogen-rich ecology (the origin-specific out-group prejudice hypothesis). Internal meta-analyses lend some support to both hypotheses. At the experimental level, pathogen primes had no effect on attitudes toward origin-unspecified immigrants or immigrants from a pathogen-rich ecology. At the individual differences level, PDS has a unique negative effect on comfort with immigrants from pathogen-rich ecologies but not on comfort with immigrants from unspecified ecologies. However, pathogen disgust sensitivity was negatively related to the decision to allow entry to both origin-unspecified immigrants and immigrants from a pathogen-rich ecology.
Bibliographical noteFirst published online: February 10, 2019
- behavioral immune system
- internal meta-analyses
- out-group prejudice
- pathogen disgust sensitivity