The present research explores the influence of disease avoidance motive on decision making when interacting with foreigners and the psychological mechanisms behind it, namely the role of stereotypes of foreigners between the two, through online questionnaires and laboratory experiments. The theoretical significance of this study is that it expands the model of Behavioral Immune System theory by revealing the relationship between disease avoidance motive and intergroup cooperation and the role of stereotypes in it. The practical significance is to provide a psychological basis for eliminating inter-country prejudice, promoting benign international interactions, and facilitating Belt and Road construction under epidemic conditions of infectious diseases.
Study 1 was conducted in the form of online questionnaires. Six countries familiar or neighboring to Chinese (USA, Japan, Korea, Thailand, Vietnam, and Indonesia) were selected, and participants were randomly assigned and imagined to play a one-shot prisoner's dilemma game with a foreigner from one of these countries, and variables such as participants' disease avoidance motive, warmth and competence stereotypes for the people of that country were measured. The results found that (1) participants' disease avoidance motive negatively affected cooperation with foreigners; (2) disease avoidance motive negatively affected warmth stereotype of foreigners; (3) warmth stereotype of an out-group positively affected participants' cooperation with the group member in the social dilemmas; and (4) warmth stereotypes mediated the relationship between disease avoidance motive and level of cooperation in the social dilemma with foreigners.
In Study 2, we manipulated disease avoidance motive of participants with pictures about the COVID-19 epidemic, and set the control group for viewing neutral images. After measuring disease avoidance motive, participants were randomly assigned to play a one-shot prisoner's dilemma game with a foreigner or a Chinese. Participants' cooperation, warmth and competence stereotypes for the target groups were subsequently measured. The results found that (1) participants in the high-disease-avoidance group had significantly lower levels of cooperation with foreigners than participants in the control group; (2) participants in the high-disease-avoidance group had significantly lower warmth stereotype of foreigners than participant in the control group; (3) warmth stereotype of the foreigner group in the social dilemma positively affected participants' levels of cooperation; (4) the increasing of disease avoidance motive negatively affected participants' cooperation toward foreigners through warmth stereotype.