Hormonal correlates of pathogen disgust: testing the compensatory prophylaxis hypothesis

Benedict C. Jones, Amanda C. Hahn, Claire I. Fisher, Hongyi Wang, Michal Kandrik, Anthony J. Lee, Joshua M. Tybur, Lisa M. DeBruine

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Raised progesterone during the menstrual cycle is associated with suppressed physiological immune responses, reducing the probability that the immune system will compromise the blastocyst's development. The Compensatory Prophylaxis Hypothesis proposes that this progesterone-linked immunosuppression triggers increased disgust responses to pathogen cues, compensating for the reduction in physiological immune responses by minimizing contact with pathogens. Although a popular and influential hypothesis, there is no direct, within-woman evidence for correlated changes in progesterone and pathogen disgust. To address this issue, we used a longitudinal design to test for correlated changes in salivary progesterone and pathogen disgust (measured using the pathogen disgust subscale of the Three Domain Disgust Scale) in a large sample of women (N = 375). Our analyses showed no evidence that pathogen disgust tracked changes in progesterone, estradiol, testosterone, or cortisol. Thus, our results provide no support for the Compensatory Prophylaxis Hypothesis of variation in pathogen disgust.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)166-169
Number of pages4
JournalEvolution and Human Behavior
Issue number2
Early online date19 Dec 2017
Publication statusPublished - 31 Mar 2018


  • progesterone
  • pathogen disgust
  • pathogen cues
  • immunosuppression triggers

Cite this

Jones, B. C., Hahn, A. C., Fisher, C. I., Wang, H., Kandrik, M., Lee, A. J., Tybur, J. M., & DeBruine, L. M. (2018). Hormonal correlates of pathogen disgust: testing the compensatory prophylaxis hypothesis. Evolution and Human Behavior, 39(2), 166-169. https://doi.org/10.1016/j.evolhumbehav.2017.12.004