Inductive reasoning influences perception of interspecies disease transmission risk


Diseases of zoonotic origin are a major global health concern. Because zoonoses originates with human-animal contact, understanding human reasoning about the risk factors associated with animal contact is central to combating the spread of zoonotic diseases. We present an inductive account of zoonosis risk perception, suggesting it is influenced by beliefs about the range of animals that are able to transmit diseases to each other. In Study 1, we find that participants who endorse higher likelihoods of cross-species disease transmission have stronger intention to report animal bites. In Study 2, adapting real world descriptions of Ebola virus from the WHO and CDC, we find that communications conveying a broader range of animals as susceptible to a disease increase intentions to report animal bites and decrease perceived safety of wild game meat. These findings suggest that cognitive factors may be harnessed to modulate zoonosis risk perception and combat emerging infectious diseases.

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