Infectious diseases have been a major threat to survival throughout human history. Humans have developed a behavioral immune system to prevent infection by causing individuals to avoid people, food, and objects that could be contaminated. This current project investigates how ambient temperature affects the activation of this system. Because temperature is positively correlated with the prevalence of many deadly diseases, I predict that temperature moderates the behavioral immune system, such that a disease prime will have a stronger effect in a hot environment compared to a neutral environment and one's avoidant behaviors will be more extreme. Participants were placed in a hot room (M = 85F) or a neutral room (M = 77F) and shown a disease prime slide show or a neutral slide show. Disgust sensitivity and perceived vulnerability surveys were used to measure an increased perceived risk to disease. A taste test between a disgusting food item (gummy bugs) and a neutral food item (gummy animals) measured food avoidance. There was no significant avoidance of the gummy and no significant difference in ratings of disgust sensitivity or perceived vulnerability as a function of temperature conditions. There were no significant interactions between temperature and disease. The conclusion is that this study did not provide evidence that temperature moderates the effect of disease cues on behavior.
- Climate as a moderator of the effect of disease threat on interpersonal behavior