UBC Theses and Dissertations

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UBC Theses and Dissertations

Disease prevalence and conformity Murray, Damian


The fitness costs and benefits of conforming to ones ingroup vary depending upon the dangers inherent in the immediate environment. In threatening environments, conformity is likely to be more beneficial than it is in less threatening environments. One specific threat that has had a profound selective influence on humans is infectious disease. Therefore, it was predicted that cultures inhabiting regions where risk of disease transmission is high would have more conformist orientations. Across four divergent measures of conformity, this was shown to be the case. Laboratory manipulations of disease, however, did not change levels of conformity. In two laboratory studies in which participants made judgments about either physical quantities (such as weight or volume) or about subjective liking for abstract art, participants did not conform more to normative information when disease was made salient compared to control conditions. Implications are discussed.

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