Research Projects

Measuring the impact of the pandemic on human sociality from the activation of the Behavioral Immune System

Measuring the impact of the pandemic on human sociality from the activation of the Behavioral Immune System 2020
Carlos Rodríguez-Sickert (Principal Investigator)

Collaborating Institutions:
Research Center in Social Complexity (CICS), Universidad del Desarrollo (UDD).
University of Santiago de Chile (USACH)
University of Playa Ancha (UPLA).

Carlos Rodríguez Sickert (IR)
Oriana Figueroa (CO)
Nohelia Valenzuela (CO)
Daniel Torrico (ES)
Pablo Polo (CO)
José A. Muñoz (CO)
Ricardo Guzman (CO)
Isabel Behnke (CO)
Yerka Freire (ES)
Gabriela Fajardo (ES)
Eduardo Graells (CO)
Melanie Oyarzún (ES)

Other Participants:
Denise Laroze (USACH)
Paula Pavez (UPLA).
Ana María Fernández (USACH)

*IR: Responsible Researcher; CO: Co-Investigator; Tec; Technical Support; Es; Graduate Student; PD; Postdoc.

Project Description:
Pathogens are one of the main selection forces we have faced as a species. They have been present since the beginning of our evolution, impacting all aspects of our lives, including not only biological aspects, but our psychology and the dynamics of social behavior that arise from it. The Behavioral Immune System is an integrative theoretical model, first proposed in 2011, that seeks to provide a functional explanation for how people modify their social behavior as a function of the risk of infection to which they are subjected when the population is affected by disease. Therefore, four central predictions are derived from this model regarding psychological and behavioral changes that people undergo as a result of the change in the perceived threat of infection by pathogens. These predictions involve: a decrease in sociability and thus in openness to external groups, increasing internal fusion and rejecting outsiders, an increase in sexual conservatism, with a consequent decrease in sexual promiscuity (a phenomenon known as non-restrictive sociosexuality), the expression of exclusionary modes, such as xenophobia or racism, especially towards population groups that are subjectively labeled as vectors or at-risk populations, and finally, a greater attachment to the normative structures of society, i.e., an increased tendency to follow group leaders. One of the main advantages of our group is the availability of baseline (i.e., pre-pandemic) indicators for all of the above dimensions that will allow us to reliably estimate the extent of behavioral change attributable to the presence of the disease. Understanding the pandemic impact on the psychology and behavior of the population based on these dimensions will inform public policies for social integration that improve intra- and inter-group relations.

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