This piece is forthcoming in the top-ranked political science journal
From the introduction:
“In the evolved mind, we argue, differences in appearance (such as the color of one’s skin) are intuitively interpreted as cues of infectious diseases, rather than harmless differences in levels of melanin.”
At most, pathogen avoidance could potentially influence social networks that develop, influence cultural norms that emerge, which could then be associated with political outcomes, but this would suggest a much more complex causal chain that works through norms or institutions, rather pathogen avoidance having a direct effect on immigration attitudes.
From the conclusion:
“These findings establish that the unconscious motivation to avoid pathogens drives the connection between behavioral immune sensitivity and immigration attitudes, ruling out concerns that behavioral immune sensitivity simply proxies other political predispositions (e.g., prejudice). This conclusion, we believe, sheds light on why people who espouse racist and xenophobic ideologies compare members of outgroups to vectors of disease, such as vermin, cockroaches, and plagues (see Banks and Valentino 2012), and why immigrants are often described as being unclean, filthy, or dirty.”
To suggest that the portrayal of immigrants as dirty, diseased by those opposed them can be used as support for claims on how unconscious pathogen avoidance affect attitudes strikes me as incredibly naive, and legitimises language that is used to dehumanise groups for political gain (Jews as dirty rats, anyone?).
Why would an evolutionary mechanism develop in countries that are very ethnically homogenous, like Denmark? And why would it persist, given that immigration procedures require proof of vaccination? What is the plausible evolutionary basis?
The potential for abuse of such arguments is tremendous, for the paper to not even acknowledging these risks anywhere is quite irresponsible.