Departmental Honors Project Title
The Behavioral Immune System: Homelessness as a Disease Marker
Date of Award
College of Liberal Arts
Alongside the biological immune system is the behavioral immune system that works to avoid infection by avoiding contact with potential disease. The behavioral immune system reacts to visual cues of potential disease, such as coughing or skin lesions, and promotes avoidance behavior via disgust reactions. It interacts with biological immune responses by influencing hormones such as Interleukin-6 and cortisol. The behavioral immune system has also been found to overgeneralize and react to cues, such as obesity, disability, and foreignness, that do not signal actual disease threat. The purpose of this study is to test if the behavioral immune system overgeneralizes to include homelessness as a marker for disease. Analysis of the difference in salivary cortisol levels between the pre and post saliva samples showed no significant difference in cortisol levels between homeless and non-homeless individuals. The comparison supported the conclusion that cortisol drops due to disgust reactions from disease stimuli and revealed that we do not react to homeless people with disgust.
O’Connor, Anya, "The Behavioral Immune System: Homelessness as a Disease Marker" (2018). Departmental Honors Projects. 97.
Departmental Honors Projects