Here, we present a mechanistically grounded theory detailing a novel function of the behavioral immune system (BIS), the psychological system that prompts pathogen avoidance behaviors. We propose that BIS activity allows the body to downregulate basal inflammation, preventing resultant oxidative damage to DNA and promoting longevity. Study 1 investigated the relationship between a trait measure of pathogen avoidance motivation and in vitro and in vivo proinflammatory cytokine production. Study 2 examined the relationship between this same predictor and DNA damage often associated with prolonged inflammation. Results revealed that greater trait pathogen avoidance motivation predicts a) lower levels of spontaneous (but not stimulated) proinflammatory cytokine release by peripheral blood mononuclear cells (PBMCs), b) lower plasma levels of the proinflammatory cytokine interleukin-6 (IL-6), and c) lower levels of oxidative DNA damage. Thus, the BIS may promote health by protecting the body from the deleterious effects of inflammation and oxidative stress.
ASJC Scopus subject areas
- Biochemistry, Genetics and Molecular Biology(all)
- Agricultural and Biological Sciences(all)