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.

Pathogen Avoidance
and Prejudice

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Pathogen Avoidance and Prejudice

I examine how biological processes of the immune system such as inflammation and psychological processes such as avoidance of pathogens are associated with prejudice against immigrants, the elderly, and those with physical deformities. In one study, for example, I have shown that increases in inflammation during a lab session were positively associated with automatic attentional aversion from targets with physical deformities and with affective biases on an IAT against elderly targets. These findings suggest that inflammation may underlie other important perceptions that relate to group dynamics and social distancing. Psychological pathogen avoidance also has direct implications for health. My collaborators and I have recently published a paper linking pathogen avoidance to immune system responses during actual pathogen encounters and to signs of chronic inflammation (Gassen, Prokosch, Makhanova et al., PLOS ONE, 2018). The fact that psychological and biological processes that typically help us maintain our health may undermine societal goals relating to diversity necessitates careful research examining the interconnections between health and social perception.