Featured Research

from universities, journals, and other organizations

Sick body, vigilant mind

Date:
September 11, 2011
Source:
Association for Psychological Science
Summary:
We know that in keeping the body physically healthy, the mind both conscious and unconscious is a principle actor. Indeed, research has shown that the biological, or physiological, immune system that fights pathogens once they've entered the body can be kick-started by the "behavioral immune system," with which we notice, feel repulsed by, and act to avoid people who might make us sick.

We know that in keeping the body physically healthy, the mind both conscious and unconscious is a principle actor. Indeed, research has shown that the biological, or physiological, immune system that fights pathogens once they've entered the body can be kick-started by the "behavioral immune system," with which we notice, feel repulsed by, and act to avoid people who might make us sick.

Now a study in an upcoming issue of Psychological Science, a journal published by the Association for Psychological Science, offers intriguing new evidence of the connection moving in the other direction: from physiological to psychological immune reactions. "When people have been recently sick, and therefore recently activated their physiological immune systems, they are more likely to pay attention to and display avoidance of disfigured faces" -- which they read, like a rash or a sneeze, as a sign of contagion, says University of Kentucky psychologist Saul Miller. Miller conducted the study with Jon K. Maner of Florida State University.

Two experiments showed that the recently ill more vigilantly pay attention to and avoid others who might make them sick. In the first, faces, some disfigured and some normal, were displayed on a screen. When they disappeared, either a circle or square appeared, and the person had to press a key, as quickly as possible, indicating which shape they saw. When the face appeared in a different portion of the screen, the participant had to shift her attention to it. A longer lag in switching meant more attention was paid to the face. After 80 trials, participants answered a questionnaire about whether they had been ill -- "feeling a little under the weather," "had a cold or flu recently," for instance -- and if so, when, from today to a year or more ago. Other questions measured feelings of vulnerability to disease and germs. The results: Independent of their conscious worries, those who had more recently been ill paid more attention to the disfigured faces than to the normal faces. Those who hadn't been ill showed no difference in reaction time.

In the second experiment participants had to push a joystick -- a tested indication of avoidance -- in response to a disfigured face and pull (showing approach) for normal face. Everyone was quicker to push away the disfigured one or pull the normal one. But those who'd been sick were even quicker than normal in avoiding the "sick" face, and the sicker they'd been, the faster they pushed. The not-ill people showed no difference.

The findings have implications beyond the scientific. "When we're sick, we tend to show biases against people stereotypically associated with disease -- the obese, the elderly, foreigners," says Miller. Avoiding people who might make us sick is hardwired behavior when we ourselves our ill, he says. But we're taught to be repelled by certain people -- like the obese, old, or foreign -- who present no threat of contagion. While scientists learn the pathways between psychological and physiological immunity, he suggests, the rest of us can unlearn our fears and treat people better.


Story Source:

The above story is based on materials provided by Association for Psychological Science. Note: Materials may be edited for content and length.


Cite This Page:

Association for Psychological Science. "Sick body, vigilant mind." ScienceDaily. ScienceDaily, 11 September 2011. <www.sciencedaily.com/releases/2011/09/110908170057.htm>.
Association for Psychological Science. (2011, September 11). Sick body, vigilant mind. ScienceDaily. Retrieved October 22, 2014 from www.sciencedaily.com/releases/2011/09/110908170057.htm
Association for Psychological Science. "Sick body, vigilant mind." ScienceDaily. www.sciencedaily.com/releases/2011/09/110908170057.htm (accessed October 22, 2014).

Share This



More Health & Medicine News

Wednesday, October 22, 2014

Featured Research

from universities, journals, and other organizations


Featured Videos

from AP, Reuters, AFP, and other news services

CDC Revamps Ebola Guidelines After Criticism

CDC Revamps Ebola Guidelines After Criticism

Newsy (Oct. 21, 2014) The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention have issued new protocols for healthcare workers interacting with Ebola patients. Video provided by Newsy
Powered by NewsLook.com
WHO: Ebola Vaccine Trials to Start a in January

WHO: Ebola Vaccine Trials to Start a in January

AP (Oct. 21, 2014) Tens of thousands of doses of experimental Ebola vaccines could be available for "real-world" testing in West Africa as soon as January as long as they are deemed safe in soon to start trials, the World Health Organization said Tuesday. (Oct. 21) Video provided by AP
Powered by NewsLook.com
First-Of-Its-Kind Treatment Gives Man Ability To Walk Again

First-Of-Its-Kind Treatment Gives Man Ability To Walk Again

Newsy (Oct. 21, 2014) A medical team has for the first time given a man the ability to walk again after transplanting cells from his brain onto his severed spinal cord. Video provided by Newsy
Powered by NewsLook.com
CDC Issues New Ebola Guidelines for Health Workers

CDC Issues New Ebola Guidelines for Health Workers

Reuters - US Online Video (Oct. 21, 2014) The U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention has set up new guidelines for health workers taking care of patients infected with Ebola. Linda So reports. Video provided by Reuters
Powered by NewsLook.com

Search ScienceDaily

Number of stories in archives: 140,361

Find with keyword(s):
Enter a keyword or phrase to search ScienceDaily for related topics and research stories.

Save/Print:
Share:

Breaking News:

Strange & Offbeat Stories


Health & Medicine

Mind & Brain

Living & Well

In Other News

... from NewsDaily.com

Science News

Health News

Environment News

Technology News



Save/Print:
Share:

Free Subscriptions


Get the latest science news with ScienceDaily's free email newsletters, updated daily and weekly. Or view hourly updated newsfeeds in your RSS reader:

Get Social & Mobile


Keep up to date with the latest news from ScienceDaily via social networks and mobile apps:

Have Feedback?


Tell us what you think of ScienceDaily -- we welcome both positive and negative comments. Have any problems using the site? Questions?
Mobile: iPhone Android Web
Follow: Facebook Twitter Google+
Subscribe: RSS Feeds Email Newsletters
Latest Headlines Health & Medicine Mind & Brain Space & Time Matter & Energy Computers & Math Plants & Animals Earth & Climate Fossils & Ruins