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Salience of concerns about disease transmission affects attitudes toward ethnic foreigners Faulkner, Jason

Abstract

The human mind evolved to avoid recurrent threats, one of them being the threat of interpersonal disease transmission. This could contribute to ethnic outgroup derogation in contemporary environments, since ethnic "foreign-ness" is a potential trigger of an evolved disease avoidance mechanism that motivates avoidance of contagiously diseased individuals. One hypothesis that emerges is that when susceptibility to contagious diseases is salient, individuals will express exclusionary attitudes toward subjectively foreign (but not familiar) ethnic groups. This hypothesis was tested in two experiments. In each experiment, some participants were made to feel susceptible to contagious diseases by viewing a series of pictures that conveyed the ease with which germs are transmitted in everyday life. In Study 1 , compared to a control condition, these participants endorsed immigration of a subjectively foreign group (Nigerians) to a lesser extent than immigration of a subjectively familiar group (Scottish people). In Study 2, participants in this condition also indicated that less money should be spent on recruiting immigrants from subjectively foreign locations (Nigeria, Mongolia, Brazil, and Peru) than on immigrants from subjectively familiar locations (Scotland, Taiwan, Poland, and Iceland). The results of these studies are consistent with the hypothesis that an evolved disease-avoidance mechanism contributes to exclusionary attitudes toward subjectively foreign ethnic groups.

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