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University of New Mexico

How a fear of germs infects our political views

How a fear of germs infects our political views

Campaign insiders and TV pundits may have overlooked an important factor coloring our politics: germs.

Worries about all manner of pathogens — disease-causing bacteria, viruses, and larger parasites — are an underappreciated contributor to prejudice, distrust of foreigners, and resentment toward those who spurn traditional values, according to a growing body of psychology research.

To understand why, it helps to be acquainted with the behavioral immune system, our defense against infection that’s shaped by natural selection and further embellished by learning. Largely below the level of our conscious awareness, we constantly scan our surroundings for any...

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