Aarhus University Seal

AIAS Seminar: Michael Bang Petersen and Lene Aarøe, Dept. of Political Science, Aarhus University

"Disgust: How the Behavioral Immune System Shapes Politics" and "Implications of pathogen avoidance motivations for politics"

Info about event


Monday 28 September 2020,  at 14:15 - 15:30


Virtual via Zoom



Due to COVID-19 the talk is only streamed via Zoom. To attend virtually, please join via URL: https://aarhusuniversity.zoom.us/j/63438043718 

Dual talk with speakers: Michael Bang Petersen and Lene Aarøe, Dept. of Political Science, Aarhus University
Commenting by: AIAS Former Fellow, sociologist Isabel Kusche, Institut für Technikfolgenabschätzung und Systemanalyse (ITAS), Karlsruhe, Germany 

Michael Bang Petersen: "Disgust: How the Behavioral Immune System Shapes Politics" and 

Lene Aarøe: "Implications of pathogen avoidance motivations for politics" 

Abstract of Lene Aarøe's talk

Infectious disease has been an enduring threat across human evolutionary history, and our species has evolved a range of mechanisms to protect against disease. Some of these are psychological motivations designed to motivate avoidance of perceived disease threat, and they are sometimes referred to as the behavioral immune system. In this talk, I investigate how the behavioral immune system shapes political cognition: First, I draw on insights from biology and psychology on pathogen avoidance to advance to our understanding of why there is so strong opposition to immigration. Secondly, I investigate the implications of pathogen avoidance motivations for party identification and vote choice – two of the most politically consequential individual-level preferences in modern democracies. Third, I demonstrate how pathogen avoidance motivation shapes one of the broadest and most fundamental measures of social perception in mass democracies: generalized social trust. 

Abstract of Michael Bang Petersen's talk

Short bio of Michael Bang Petersen

Michael Bang Petersen is a Professor at Political Science at Aarhus University and an AIAS Former Jens Christian Skou Fellow, from 2018-2018. He utilizes theories and methods from evolutionary psychology to tackle research questions within political science. His work has appeared in numerous journals including American Political Science Review, Psychological Science and Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences. He is member of the Young Academy of the Royal Danish Academy of Sciences and Letters and received the 2017 Early Career Award from the International Society of Political Psychology.

Short bio of Lene Aarøe

Lene Aarøe is associate professor at the Department of Political Science, Aarhus University. Her research field is political psychology. She works interdisciplinarily to integrates theories from psychology, communication, biology and political science to advance understanding of how citizens form political opinions in modern democracies. Her research has been published in numerous journals including the American Political Science Review, Psychological Science, and Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences.  She has received the Danish Council for Independent Research’s Sapere Aude Young Elite Researcher’s grant and is currently PI of the project Exemplar Democracy: Psychological Biases and the Impact of Exemplars on Factual Perceptions and Attributions of Government Responsibility funded by the Independent Research Fund Denmark.

Short bio of Isabel Kusche

Isabel Kusche received a doctorate in sociology at the University of Bielefeld in Germany in 2008. Subsequently, she has worked as a lecturer and researcher at the University of Kiel and the University of Osnabrueck. She was an AIAS-COFUND Fellow from 2015-2018 at the Aarhus Institute of Advanced Studies, and a EURIAS fellow at the Institute for Advanced Studies in the Humanities, University of Edinburgh, UK from 2018-2019. Currently she holds a research position at the Institute for Technology Assessment and Systems Analysis, Karlsruhe, Germany. Her research focuses on political communication and the (re-)production of political power in contemporary democracies.

What is an AIAS Seminar?

The AIAS Seminar is a session of seminars held by the AIAS fellow or by other speakers proposed by the fellows. In each seminar, one fellow will present and discuss his/her current research and research project, closing off with a question and discussion session.

All seminars are held in English.