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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In social interactions, people are not only aware of their perceptions of others, but also try to manage the perceptions others form of them. I conducted a series of field and lab studies to examine whether people use a particular nonverbal behavioral strategy—positioning themselves higher or lower than their social partners—when attempting to manage others’ perceptions in various contexts (e.g., dating, professional networking; Makhanova et al., 2017, Psychological Science). I found that women preferred to position themselves lower than social partners, particularly in dating contexts. In turn, women were perceived as more attractive from this angle by men and other women. Men, however, preferred to position themselves higher than social partners, but only in competitive contexts with other men. In turn, men were perceived as more dominant from this angle, but again only by other men. Although I did not assess this possibility in this research, such differences between men’s and women’s social communication may be associated with biological processes, such as testosterone. In future work, I plan to examine links between biological processes and people’s impression management strategies, such as relative physical position, in various social contexts (e.g., within organizations, among friends, and with romantic partners).