Ege University Faculty of Letters, Department of Psychology, Social Psychology Department lecturer Assoc. Dr. The project titled “Social Immunity and Genetic Moderators of the Behavioral Immune System”, led by Mert Tek Özel, was deemed worthy of support within the scope of the TÜBİTAK "1001-Scientific and Technological Research Projects Support Program". As a researcher in the project designed in a multi-disciplinary framework, Ege University Faculty of Science Department of Biology Department of Molecular Biology faculty members Prof. Dr. Cemal Un and Assoc. Dr. Hüseyin Can took place.
Congratulating the project team, Rector Prof. Dr. Necdet Budak said, “Our teacher Mert and his team have signed an important project that supports that behavioral immunity is at least as important as biological immunity. These projects were deemed eligible to be supported within the scope of TÜBİTAK 1001-Scientific and Technological Research Projects Support Programme. I congratulate our teacher and his team and wish them continued success.”
Project Coordinator Assoc. Dr. Mert Tek Özel, “COVID-19 pandemic has clearly shown that societies have to live with the reality of the epidemic. Against the risk of epidemic and infection, the importance of human attitudes and behaviors in the spread of possible epidemics has emerged once again. In this context, the current project will contribute to a comprehensive understanding of the role of human mind and behavior in the spread of infectious diseases, in terms of possible interaction with genetic factors. Understanding how the cognitive system works in determining the risk of infection by individuals and transforming it into protective behaviors, and which genetic factors are associated with individual differences in this regard, will be the most important social output of the project.
“The behavioral immune system is protective”
Assoc. Dr. “Evolutionary psychologists have shown that humans, like many other animal species, derive great advantages from behavioral defenses against infectious pathogens, especially in terms of survival, and conceptualized this set of defenses as the behavioral immune system. The behavioral immune system can be thought of as a cognitive-emotional-behavioral mechanism that works in addition to and in addition to the biological immune system, protecting individuals from possible infections, and its basic working principle can be described as avoiding exposure to pathogen contact yet. If the organism can avoid pathogenic microbes before they come into contact with them, it can provide a major adaptive advantage. Doing this is only possible by monitoring the signs of infection in the environment and acting more sensitively and vigilantly. Accordingly, natural selection has equipped especially social species with such behavioral mechanisms.
Tek Özel, the purpose of the project; “Behavioral responses to infection-signaling stimuli have been extensively studied in the relevant literature. However, there is very little research on the proposed genetic components that this system works with. The current project will serve as an example to show that it is possible to develop a qualified academic cooperation between natural sciences and behavioral sciences, as well as to fill this gap.