Research

Have you ever wondered why people behave like they do? What has led humans to think in certain ways, to care about some things and not others, to make decisions that sometimes seem irrational? In our lab, we explore how adaptive psychological mechanisms drive perception, decision-making, and behavior. As a result, our minds act and react often without great conscious awareness. That is, much of what we think about (or don’t think about), the decisions we make (or not), and the (dis)satisfaction we have with those decisions are not matters of deep deliberation. Instead, a fundamental set of evolved predispositions interacts with subtle features of our environments to shape our actions.  In approaching behavior from this perspective, our lab’s research has concentrated on interpersonal cognition — how and why people think, prefer, choose, and act with or because of each other — although more recently, we have begun investigating how our understanding of the self is shaped as well.

Our lab studies a wide range of processes, but typically with a focus on threat management. We are interested in how people respond to and cope with “big” threats, including those related to mortality, disease, resources, and social rejection. We also work on topics less connected to an evolutionary perspective in the domains of marketing, sensation, and social cognition.

Some of the topics we study:

  • Behavioral & physiological immune system effects
  • Life history theory
  • Economic decision-making
  • Person perception
  • Sensory processing
  • Vicarious experience
  • Ecological influences
  • Invulnerability and other threat-reduction mechanisms