Project Information

Kurt Lewin Instituut
Heidelberglaan 1
Room Number H1.42
The Netherlands
T: +31 (0)30 - 253 3027

Project Information

Project Title
"The Human Behavioral Immune System: Consequences for Health and Innovation"

VU University Amsterdam - Department of Experimental and Applied Psychology

PhD Student
Annika Karinen

Dr. Joshua Tybur (VU University Amsterdam)
Dr. Reinout de Vries (VU University Amsterdam)

15 November 2016 - 15 November 2020

ERC Grant of Joshua Tybur


Modern innovations can be tremendously useful in combatting contemporary environmental challenges such as climate change and overpopulation, and improve the lives and health of humans. Examples include 3D-printed organs, domestic robots and generating energy from waste. However, people do not always welcome new ideas and inventions with open arms, and may even oppose them vigorously. In this project, we examine what makes people accept or reject these innovations, and how to increase acceptance of useful innovations. Several factors can influence people’s attitudes towards innovations: how useful they are perceived, how likely one is to personally benefit from them, or what emotions they elicit (e.g. fear or disgust). In this project, we focus on how individual differences in the Human Behavioral Immune System activation (i.e. sensitivity to disgust and perceived vulnerability to disease) influence acceptance versus rejection of modern innovations (e.g. in technology, energy, food or health). Specifically, we propose that people who are highly disgust sensitive are especially averse toward innovations that involve disgust-eliciting stimuli, such as fecal transplants, recycled human waste or incorporating insects into Western cuisine. We also examine how general openness to experience influences attitudes toward innovations.

A further aim of this project is to understand where individual differences in disgust sensitivity, openness to experience and acceptance of innovations stem from. Using behavioral genetics, we will map the heritability of these variables, contributing to a broader understanding of the factors that influence variability in personality.

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