Disease Avoidance Behaviours can Interfere with Dating

Researchers at McGill University in Canada have found that singles’ judgement on dates can be impacted by the extent to which their behavioural immune system is activated.

The behavioural immune system is a set of subconscious and conscious behaviours which are said to help us avoid contracting diseases in everyday life.

Its validity is disputed, but there are clear examples of behaviours which fit the description.

Keeping distance from someone who is coughing is one example of a strategy we might use to avoid disease in public. Smells and visual cues can also help us identify people and objects that pose a threat.

Researchers showed one group of participants a video designed to activate the behavioural immune system before having them (online and speed) date.

When compared to a control group, the participants shown the video were far less keen to connect.

“We found that when the behavioral immune system was activated it seemed to put the brakes on our drive to connect with our peers socially,” says first author Natsumi Sawada, a PhD in psychology.

“We hadn’t expected this to be the case in real life situations like dating where people are generally so motivated to connect.

The results suggest that beyond how we consciously or unconsciously think and feel about each other there are additional factors that we may not be consciously aware of, such as a fear of disease that may influence how we connect with others.”

The findings may have implications for apps which choose to display sexual health warnings between profiles.

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