Behavioral immune trade-offs: interpersonal value relaxes social pathogen avoidance

Tybur, J.M., Lieberman, D., Fan, L., Kupfer, T. ORCID: 0000-0003-1147-6082 and de Vries, R.E., 2020. Behavioral immune trade-offs: interpersonal value relaxes social pathogen avoidance. Psychological Science, 31 (10), pp. 1211-1221. ISSN 0956-7976

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Behavioral-immune-system research has illuminated how people detect and avoid signs of infectious disease. But how do we regulate exposure to pathogens that produce no symptoms in their hosts? This research tested the proposition that estimates of interpersonal value are used for this task. The results of three studies (N = 1,694), each conducted using U.S. samples, are consistent with this proposition: People are less averse to engaging in infection-risky acts not only with friends relative to foes but also with honest and agreeable strangers relative to dishonest and disagreeable ones. Further, a continuous measure of how much a person values a target covaries with comfort with infection-risky acts with that target, even within relationship categories. Findings indicate that social prophylactic motivations arise not only from cues to infectiousness but also from interpersonal value. Consequently, pathogen transmission within social networks might be exacerbated by relaxed contamination aversions with highly valued social partners.

Item Type: Journal article
Publication Title: Psychological Science
Creators: Tybur, J.M., Lieberman, D., Fan, L., Kupfer, T. and de Vries, R.E.
Publisher: SAGE Publications
Date: 1 October 2020
Volume: 31
Number: 10
ISSN: 0956-7976
Rights: © The Author(s) 2020. This article is distributed under the terms of the Creative Commons Attribution 4.0 License ( which permits any use, reproduction and distribution of the work without further permission provided the original work is attributed as specified on the SAGE and Open Access pages (
Divisions: Schools > School of Social Sciences
Record created by: Laura Ward
Date Added: 10 Mar 2022 09:59
Last Modified: 10 Mar 2022 10:37

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