February 12, 2018

The Sick Sense: Sensory Detection of Infectious Disease

Joshua Ackerman, University of Michigan

Functional psychological responses to the dangers of infectious disease first require perceiving that pathogenic threats exist. How do people detect such threats? One way is through use of conceptual knowledge from lay beliefs or direct communication, but another, perhaps more primitive, means involves use of specific sensory information. In this talk, I will review human and non-human evidence regarding detection of pathogen indicators, focusing on various domains of sensory cues. I will also consider the relevance of this evidence for our understanding of downstream consequences that occur following detection. These sensory processes and downstream outcomes are marked by biases that drive behavior in particular, often functional ways.