Perceived Virulence of Germs From a Liked Versus Disliked Source: Evidence of Magical Contagion


      Purpose: This research tested the hypothesis that adolescents perceive germs and resulting illness to be more virulent when contracted from a disliked source than from a liked source.
      Methods: High school students rated their imagined illness from a disliked person and a friend. Independent judges rated students’ drawings of germs from the disliked source and from the friend.
      Results: Students imagined their illness as more serious when contracted from a disliked source, and judges rated the germs from a disliked source as angrier and more threatening.
      Conclusions: These results are discussed in terms of the role of “magical contagion” in reducing adolescents’ perceived vulnerability to consequences of their risk-taking behavior.


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