Money for microbes—Pathogen avoidance and out-group helping behaviour

Michael Laakasuo*, Nils Köbis, Jussi Palomäki, Markus Jokela

*Corresponding author for this work

    Research output: Contribution to JournalArticleAcademicpeer-review

    Abstract

    Humans have evolved various adaptations against pathogens, including the physiological immune system. However, not all of these adaptations are physiological: the cognitive mechanisms whereby we avoid potential sources of pathogens—for example, disgust elicited by uncleanliness—can be considered as parts of a behavioural immune system (BIS). The mechanisms of BIS extend also to inter-group relations: Pathogen cues have been shown to increase xenophobia/ethnocentrism, as people prefer to keep their societal in-group norms unaltered and “clean.” Nonetheless, little is known how pathogen cues influence people's willingness to provide humanitarian aid to out-group members. We examined how pathogen cues affected decisions of providing humanitarian aid in either instrumental (sending money) or non-instrumental form (sending personnel to help, or accepting refugees), and whether these effects were moderated by individual differences in BIS sensitivity. Data were collected in two online studies (Ns: 188 and 210). When the hypothetical humanitarian crisis involved a clear risk of infection, participants with high BIS sensitivity preferred to send money rather than personnel or to accept refugees. The results suggest that pathogen cues influence BIS-sensitive individuals' willingness to provide humanitarian aid when there is a risk of contamination to in-group members.

    Original languageEnglish
    Pages (from-to)1-10
    Number of pages10
    JournalInternational Journal of Psychology
    Volume53
    Issue numberS1
    Early online date23 Feb 2017
    DOIs
    Publication statusPublished - Oct 2018

    Keywords

    • Behavioural immune system
    • Individual differences
    • Inter-group help
    • Pathogen cues

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