Parasite stress and pathogen avoidance relate to distinct dimensions of political ideology across 30 nations

Joshua M Tybur, Yoel Inbar, Lene Aarøe, Pat Barclay, Fiona Kate Barlow, Mícheál de Barra, D Vaughn Becker, Leah Borovoi, Incheol Choi, Jong An Choi, Nathan S Consedine, Alan Conway, Jane Rebecca Conway, Paul Conway, Vera Cubela Adoric, Ekin Demirci, Ana María Fernández, Diogo Conque Seco Ferreira, Keiko Ishii, Ivana JakšićTingting Ji, Florian Van Leeuwen, David M G Lewis, Norman P Li, Jason C McIntyre, Sumitava Mukherjee, Justin H Park, Boguslaw Pawlowski, Michael Bang Petersen, David Pizarro, Gerasimos Prodromitis, Pavol Prokop, Markus J Rantala, Lisa M Reynolds, Bonifacio Sandin, Baris Sevir, Delphine de Smet, Narayanan Srinivasan, Shruti Tewari, Cameron Wilson, Jose C Yong, Iris Žeželj

Research output: Contribution to journalArticle (Academic Journal)peer-review

113 Citations (Scopus)
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People who are more avoidant of pathogens are more politically conservative, as are nations with greater parasite stress. In the current research, we test two prominent hypotheses that have been proposed as explanations for the relationship between pathogens and politics. The first, which is an intragroup, traditional norms account, holds that these relationships are based on motivations to adhere to local norms, which are sometimes shaped by cultural evolution to have pathogen neutralizing properties. The second, which is an intergroup, outgroup-avoidance account, holds that relationships between pathogen avoidance and ideology are based on motivations to avoid contact with outgroups (who might pose greater infectious disease threats than ingroup members). Results from a study surveying 11,501 participants across 30 nations are more consistent with the traditional norms account than with the outgroup-avoidance account. National parasite stress relates to traditionalism (an aspect of conservatism especially related to adherence to group norms) but not to social dominance orientation (an aspect of conservatism especially related to endorsements of intergroup barriers and negativity toward ethnic and racial outgroups). Further, individual differences in pathogen-avoidance motives (i.e., disgust sensitivity) relate more strongly to traditionalism than to social dominance orientation within the 30 nations.
Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)12408-12413
Number of pages6
JournalProceedings of the National Academy of Sciences of the United States of America
Early online date17 Oct 2016
Publication statusPublished - 1 Nov 2016

Structured keywords

  • Cognitive Science
  • Social Cognition


  • political ideology
  • pathogens
  • disgust
  • culture
  • evolutionary psychology


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