Date of Award

Spring 5-2019

Degree Type

Honors College Thesis



First Advisor

Mark Huff

Advisor Department



Researchers have suggested that individuals possess a disease-avoidance system designed to detect and remember potential sources of harmful pathogens, a system termed the behavioral immune system. Recently, Fernandes, Pandeirada, Soares, and Nairne (2017) reported an increase in memory for objects associated with individuals that are contaminated with a disease. My thesis extends this finding by examining whether disease-related memory benefits are due to the mere presence of a disease or whether the disease needs to be perceived as contagious and thereby threatening to facilitate memory. Two experiments, one between- and one within-subjects, were designed to test memory performance in the context of diseased sources. Participants auditorily studied lists of associates read by individuals afflicted with a contagious disease (influenza), a noncontagious disease (cancer), or a healthy control. In both experiments, recall and recognition did not significantly differ across the three disease conditions providing evidence that disease-related information may not affect memory processes.