Conference Talk – HBES 2022

Pathogen Disgust Sensitivity But Not Explicit Disease Concerns Predicts Immigration Attitudes During a Pandemic

Lei Fan & Joshua M. Tybur

Intergroup biases are thought to partially emerge from the behavioral immune system. The current longitudinal study (assessed at three time points of the COVID-19 pandemic – May 2020, N1 = 998; February 2021, N2 = 711; October 2021, N3 =549) tested whether attitudes toward immigrants: (1) changed across the pandemic; (2) related to explicit disease concerns and/or disgust sensitivity; and (3) varied as a function of features of a specific immigrant with different wealth, prosociality, and assimilation to the local culture. Results revealed that: (1) explicit disease concerns were higher when the pandemic was in a more severe stage, but disgust sensitivity did not vary across time points; (2) between-person – but not within-person –variation in disgust sensitivity related to negativity toward immigrants, but explicit disease concerns and assessment time in the pandemic did not; (3) the relation between disgust sensitivity and negativity toward immigrants applied when an immigrant was described as being poor, but not when an immigrant was described as being wealthy. In total, results suggest that stable individual differences in disgust sensitivity – but not time of the pandemic or any subsequent changes in disgust sensitivity or explicit disease concerns – relate to attitudes toward immigrants, and especially poor ones.

Keywords: pathogen risk; disgust sensitivity; immigration attitude; COVID-19