Center for Collaboration and Development

Conceptualizing Cooties: Exploring the Impact of Expert Versus Intuitive Models of Contagion in Daily Life

December 9, 2013
1:00 PM to 2:30 PM
423/424 Glickman Family Library, USM Portland Campus

Conceptualizing Cooties:  Exploring the Impact of Expert Versus Intuitive Models of Contagion in Daily Life

Carol J. Nemeroff, PhD.

A one hour talk on two decades of research on the intuitive psychology of contagion (the “magical contagion concept”), its nature and operation in everyday life across multiple domains, from food choices to social impression management to preventing illness to public acceptance of recycled water, followed by a discussion period. Audience participation welcomed.

Participants will learn how expert biomedical models of contagion/contamination/transfer of influence interact with intuitive ways of thinking about contagion, sometimes resulting in irrational thinking and sub-optimal behaviors (e.g., overreactions and under-reactions to threat of illness contagion; public rejection of effective solutions to critical water shortages), but also potentially foreshadowing or leading scientific advances, contributing to creativity, and providing a sensitive method for mapping social relationships.  

Carol Nemeroff has been researching, publishing and teaching about “magical contagion” and related topics since the early 1980’s. Her work is published nationally and internationally, and has been funded by the NIH’s National Center for Complementary and Alternative Medicine (NCCAM); the WateReuse Foundation; and the Centers for Disease Control. 

Monday, December 9th

1pm to 2:30pm

Location: 423/424 Glickman Family Library, USM Portland Campus

Presentation Resources:

Event recording

Conceptualizing Cooties PPT Presentation - Handout


Carol J. Nemeroff, Ph.D.

Dr. Nemeroff is Professor of Social and Behavioral Sciences and Program Liaison at the University of Southern Maine.  Dr. Nemeroff’s research focuses on the intuitive psychology of contagion, exploring its relevance to everyday activities including illness risk perceptions and precautionary behaviors; moral overtones of eating; mind-body health related to emotional processing and placebo; and public perceptions of recycled water. Related lines of research include HIV prevention, cognitive escape, and institutional mistrust. Dr. Nemeroff received her B.A. from McGill University, and her Ph.D. in Clinical Psychology from the University of Pennsylvania.  She was core faculty for 18 years in the Doctoral program in Clinical Psychology at Arizona State University prior to joining USM. Learn more about Carol.

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