Anastasia Makhanova: Research Interests
My research examines links between people's physiological processes and their social perceptions. Broadly, I am interested in assessing the ways in which neuroendocrinological, immunological, and genetic processes underlie perception of close others and of outgroup members. I am also interested in experimental manipulations of fundamental motives that influence people's social behavior in these contexts.
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I investigate the biological processes that underlie couples' abilities to navigate conflict and resolve marital problems. In one study, for example, I focused on changes in testosterone people experienced during conversations about relationship problems. In a recent paper (Makhanova et al., 2018, Hormones and Behavior), my colleagues and I linked testosterone reactivity to men’s perceptions that their partner challenged them in an adversarial way during video-recorded problem-solving discussions in the lab. Men, but not women, who perceived that their partner blamed and rejected them during the discussions experienced heightened testosterone reactivity. Notably, the effect was specific to perceptions of their partner’s behavior, not their partner’s actual behavior as coded from the recordings. These findings suggest that biological processes like testosterone reactivity may amplify conflict in close relationships. I am currently examining how conflict discussions may influence acute inflammation and whether there are protective factors that function to lessen the physiological stress that may result from relationship conflict.