We social animals must balance the need to avoid infections with the need to interact with conspecifics. To that end we have evolved, alongside our physiological immune system, a suite of behaviors devised to deal with potentially contagious individuals. Focusing mostly on humans, the current review describes the design and biological innards of this behavioral immune system, laying out how infection threat shapes sociality and sociality shapes infection threat. The paper shows how the danger of contagion is detected and posted to the brain; how it affects individuals’ mate choice and sex life; why it strengthens ties within groups but severs those between them, leading to hostility toward anyone who looks, smells, or behaves unusually; and how it permeates the foundation of our moral and political views. This system was already in place when agriculture and animal domestication set off a massive increase in our population density, personal connections, and interaction with other species, amplifying enormously the spread of disease. Alas, pandemics such as COVID-19 not only are a disaster for public health, but, by rousing millions of behavioral immune systems, could prove a threat to harmonious cohabitation too.

Infection threat shapes our social instincts

Kramer P.;Bressan P.
2021

Abstract

We social animals must balance the need to avoid infections with the need to interact with conspecifics. To that end we have evolved, alongside our physiological immune system, a suite of behaviors devised to deal with potentially contagious individuals. Focusing mostly on humans, the current review describes the design and biological innards of this behavioral immune system, laying out how infection threat shapes sociality and sociality shapes infection threat. The paper shows how the danger of contagion is detected and posted to the brain; how it affects individuals’ mate choice and sex life; why it strengthens ties within groups but severs those between them, leading to hostility toward anyone who looks, smells, or behaves unusually; and how it permeates the foundation of our moral and political views. This system was already in place when agriculture and animal domestication set off a massive increase in our population density, personal connections, and interaction with other species, amplifying enormously the spread of disease. Alas, pandemics such as COVID-19 not only are a disaster for public health, but, by rousing millions of behavioral immune systems, could prove a threat to harmonious cohabitation too.
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Utilizza questo identificativo per citare o creare un link a questo documento: https://hdl.handle.net/11577/3418202
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