Is the Relationship Between Pathogen Avoidance and Ideological Conservatism Explained by Sexual Strategies?

J.M. Tybur, Y. Inbar, E. Güler, C. Molho

Research output: Contribution to JournalArticleAcademicpeer-review

Abstract

Multiple recent studies report that measures of pathogen avoidance (e.g., disgust sensitivity) correlate with political ideology. This relationship has been interpreted as suggesting that certain political views (specifically, those views that are categorized as socially conservative) function to mitigate the pathogen threats posed either by intergroup interactions or by departures from traditional societal norms, which sometimes evolve culturally for anti-pathogen functions. We propose and test the alternative hypothesis that pathogen avoidance relates to conservatism indirectly via sexual strategies (e.g., relatively monogamous versus relatively promiscuous). Specifically, we argue that individuals who are more invested in avoiding pathogens follow a more monogamous mating strategy to mitigate against pathogens transmitted during sexual contact, and individuals following a more monogamous mating strategy adopt socially conservative political ideologies to support their reproductive interests. Results from three studies ( N's = 819, 238, and 248) using multiple measures of pathogen avoidance, sexual strategies, and ideology support this account, with sexual strategies fully mediating the relationship between measures of pathogen avoidance and conservatism in each study.
Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)489-497
JournalEvolution and Human Behavior
Volume36
DOIs
Publication statusPublished - 2015

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