The psychological effects of emergent pathogens on the body politic typically include significant levels of uncertainty and difficulties in accurate estimation of risk, contributing to profound emotional responses (notably fear, anxiety, and anger). This affective bias consequently impedes Pareto-optimal rationality. Affective distortions may also facilitate the construction of negative images of the "other," resulting in stigmatization of the ill, persecution of minorities, and diffuse inter-ethnic or inter-class violence. Emotion may also combine with information that conflicts with individual belief structures to generate cognitive dissonance, wherein individuals engage in denial of the discrepant information in order to minimize psychological pain. Of the four modern cases examined herein, both the SARS and BSE epidemics exhibited considerable psychological impacts through the generation of fear, anxiety, and panic and the stigmatization of domestic minorities and foreign populations. The 1918 influenza seems to have had considerable negative effects on the morale of affected military units and on some factions of civil society. The HIV/AIDS pandemic initially provoked considerable fear and anxiety, but in recent years its principal manifestation has taken the form of stigmatization (and often violence) toward the ill. Consequently, any evaluation of pathogenic threats to national security must take into consideration the possible psychological effects of contagion on factions, state-society relations, and material prosperity. Thus, psychological disruptions may trigger disruptions in the realm of the material-contextual.

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