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      The Inclusive Behavioral Immune System

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          Although living in social groups offers many advantages, it comes at a cost of increased transmissible disease. The behavioral immune system (BIS) is thought to have evolved as a first line of defense against such infections. It acts by minimizing the contact of yet uninfected hosts with potential pathogens. The BIS has been observed in a wide range of animals including insects, amphibians and mammals, but most research has focused on humans where the BIS is guided by complex cognitive and emotional processing. When researchers discuss the evolutionary origin of the BIS, they assess how it raises individual fitness. What would happen though if we shift our attention to the evolutionary unit of selection – the gene? Success would be measured as the change in the gene’s prevalence in the entire population, and additional behaviors would come to our attention – those that benefit relatives, i.e., behaviors that raise inclusive fitness. One widely-recognized example of the inclusive BIS is social immunity, which is prevalent among eusocial organisms such as bees and ants. Their colonies engage in a collaborative protective behavior such as grooming and the removal of infected members from the nest. Another example may be sickness behavior, which includes the behavioral, cognitive and emotional symptoms that accompany infection, such as fatigue, and loss of appetite and social interest. My colleague and I recently suggested that sickness behavior has evolved because it reduces the direct and indirect contact between an infected host and its healthy kin – improving inclusive fitness. These additional behaviors are not carried out by the healthy individuals, but rather by whole communities in the first case, and by already infected individuals in the second. Since they step beyond the classical definition of BIS, it may be useful to broaden the term to the inclusive behavioral immune system.

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          Most cited references 63

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            How should pathogen transmission be modelled?

             H. McCallum (2001)
            Host-pathogen models are essential for designing strategies for managing disease threats to humans, wild animals and domestic animals. The behaviour of these models is greatly affected by the way in which transmission between infected and susceptible hosts is modelled. Since host-pathogen models were first developed at the beginning of the 20th century, the 'mass action' assumption has almost always been used for transmission. Recently, however, it has been suggested that mass action has often been modelled wrongly. Alternative models of transmission are beginning to appear, as are empirical tests of transmission dynamics.
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              Survival for immunity: the price of immune system activation for bumblebee workers.

               P Hempel,  Y Moret (2000)
              Parasites do not always harm their hosts because the immune system keeps an infection at bay. Ironically, the cost of using immune defenses could itself reduce host fitness. This indirect cost of parasitism is often not visible because of compensatory resource intake. Here, workers of the bumblebee, Bombus terrestris, were challenged with lipopolysaccharides and micro-latex beads to induce their immune system under starvation (i.e., not allowing compensatory intake). Compared with controls, survival of induced workers was significantly reduced (by 50 to 70%).

                Author and article information

                Front Psychol
                Front Psychol
                Front. Psychol.
                Frontiers in Psychology
                Frontiers Media S.A.
                03 May 2019
                : 10
                Department of Psychology, College of Management Academic Studies , Rishon LeTsiyon, Israel
                Author notes

                Edited by: Yuki Yamada, Kyushu University, Japan

                Reviewed by: Sylvia Cremer, Institute of Science and Technology Austria (IST Austria), Austria; Costantini Marcello, Università degli Studi G. d’Annunzio Chieti e Pescara, Italy

                This article was submitted to Cognition, a section of the journal Frontiers in Psychology

                Copyright © 2019 Shakhar.

                This is an open-access article distributed under the terms of the Creative Commons Attribution License (CC BY). The use, distribution or reproduction in other forums is permitted, provided the original author(s) and the copyright owner(s) are credited and that the original publication in this journal is cited, in accordance with accepted academic practice. No use, distribution or reproduction is permitted which does not comply with these terms.

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