Authors:Mark Schaller, Jason Faulkner, H. Justin Park, L. Steven Neuberg, and T. Douglas Kenrick
An evolutionary approach to social cognition yields novel hypotheses about the perception of people belonging to specific kinds of social categories. These implications are illustrated by empirical results linking the perceived threat of physical injury to stereotypical impressions of outgroups. We review a set of studies revealing several ways in which threat-connoting cues influence perceptions of ethnic outgroups and the individuals who belong to those outgroups. We also present new results that suggest additional implications of evolved danger-avoidance mechanisms on interpersonal communication and the persistence of cultural-level stereotypes about ethnic outgroups. The conceptual utility of an evolutionary approach is further illustrated by a parallel line of research linking the threat of disease to additional kinds of social perceptions and behaviors. Evolved danger-avoidance mechanisms appear to contribute in diverse ways to individual-level cognitive processes, as well as to culturally-shared collective beliefs.