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Hormonal correlates of pathogen disgust: Testing the Compensatory Prophylaxis Hypothesis

By Benedict C Jones, Amanda C Hahn, Claire I Fisher, Hongyi Wang, Michal Kandrik, Anthony J Lee, Joshua Tybur, Lisa M DeBruine

Posted 28 Jun 2017
bioRxiv DOI: 10.1101/156430 (published DOI: 10.1016/j.evolhumbehav.2017.12.004)

Raised progesterone during the menstrual cycle is associated with suppressed physiological immune responses, reducing the probability that the immune system will compromise the blastocyst's development. The Compensatory Prophylaxis Hypothesis proposes that this progesterone-linked immunosuppression triggers increased disgust responses to pathogen cues, compensating for the reduction in physiological immune responses by minimizing contact with pathogens. Although a popular and influential hypothesis, there is no direct, within-woman evidence for correlated changes in progesterone and pathogen disgust. To address this issue, we used a longitudinal design to test for correlated changes in salivary progesterone and pathogen disgust (measured using the pathogen disgust subscale of the Three Domain Disgust Scale) in a large sample of women (N=375). Our analyses showed no evidence that pathogen disgust tracked changes in progesterone, estradiol, testosterone, or cortisol. Thus, our results provide no support for the Compensatory Prophylaxis Hypothesis of variation in pathogen disgust.

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