Mere visual perception of other people's disease symptoms facilitates a more aggressive immune response

Mark Schaller*, Gregory E. Miller, Will M. Gervais, Sarah Yager, Edith Chen

*Corresponding author for this work

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

132 Scopus citations

Abstract

An experiment (N = 28) tested the hypothesis that the mere visual perception of disease-connoting cues promotes a more aggressive immune response. Participants were exposed either to photographs depicting symptoms of infectious disease or to photographs depicting guns. After incubation with a model bacterial stimulus, participants' white blood cells produced higher levels of the proinflammatory cytokine interleukin-6 (IL-6) in the infectious-disease condition, compared with the control (guns) condition. These results provide the first empirical evidence that visual perception of other people's symptoms may cause the immune system to respond more aggressively to infection. Adaptive origins and functional implications are discussed.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)649-652
Number of pages4
JournalPsychological Science
Volume21
Issue number5
DOIs
StatePublished - 2010

Keywords

  • Disease
  • Health
  • Immunity
  • Perception
  • Threat

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Psychology(all)

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