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Objective: Recent findings suggest crowd salience heightens pathogen-avoidant motives, serving to reduce individuals’ infection risk through interpersonal contact. Such experiences may similarly facilitate the identification, and avoidance, of diseased conspecifics. The current experiment sought to replicate and extend previous crowding research.

Methods: In this experiment, we primed participants at two universities with either a crowding or control experience before having them evaluate faces manipulated to appear healthy or diseased by indicating the degree to which they would want to interact with them.

Results: Crowding-primed participants reported a more heightened preferences for healthy faces than control-primed participants. Additionally, crowd salience reduced aversion toward healthy faces but did not heighten aversion to diseased faces.

Conclusion: Results suggest crowding appears to heighten tolerance for health cues given the heightened proximal threat of infections through interpersonal contact within crowded environments. Conversely, this work extends previous findings by indicating this preference is not rooted in an aversion to cues of poor health. We frame findings from a threat management perspective in understanding how crowding fosters sensitivity toward pathogenic threats.


This article was originally published in Adaptive Human Behavior and Physiology, available at

This article is made available for unrestricted research re-use and secondary analysis in any form or by any means with acknowledgement of the original source. These permissions are granted for the duration of the World Health Organization (WHO) declaration of COVID-19 as a global pandemic.



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