Colin Holbrook

Postdoctoral Fellow
UCLA Center for Behavior, Evolution, & Culture

I study the psychology of threat, with particular emphasis on the pathways by which threat-perception influences prejudice and aggression. Current studies focus on i) the neural mechanisms by which threat intensifies ethnocentrism, and ii) the cognitive representation of threat via conceptual metaphors of bodily size and muscularity. In related work, I examine factors that lead people to morally justify inflicting harm and the role of positive emotions (e.g., parental love) in defensive aggression.


Fessler, D.M.T., & Holbrook, C. (in press). Marching into battle: Synchronous walking diminishes the conceptualized formidability of a foe. Biology Letters.

Holbrook, C., & Fessler, D.M.T. (forthcoming). The same, only different: Threat management systems as homologues in the tree of life. In A. L. Wichman, P. J. Carroll, & R. M. Arkin (Eds.), Handbook of psychological security. New York: Psychology Press. PDF

Fessler, D.M.T., Holbrook, C., Tiohkin, L., & Snyder, J.K. (forthcoming). Sizing up Helen: Nonviolent physical risk-taking enhances the envisioned bodily formidability of women. Journal of Evolutionary Psychology. PDF

Holbrook, C., Galperin, A., Fessler, D.M.T., Johnson, K., Bryant, G., & Haselton, M. (2014). If looks could kill: Anger judgments are intensified by affordances for doing harm. Emotion, 14, 455-461. PDF

Fessler, D.M.T., Holbrook, C., & Gervais, M. (in press). Men's physical strength moderates conceptualizations of prospective foes in two disparate human societies. Human Nature. PDF

Fessler, D.M.T., Tiokhin, L., Holbrook, C., Gervais, M., & Snyder, J.K. (2014). Foundations of the "Crazy Bastard" Hypothesis: Nonviolent physical risk-taking enhances conceptualized formidability. Evolution and Human Behavior, 35, 26-33. PDF

Holbrook, C., Piazza, J., & Fessler, D.M.T. (2014). Further challenges to the "Authentic" / "Hubristic" model of pride: Conceptual clarifications and new evidence. Emotion, 14, 38-42. PDF

Holbrook, C., Piazza, J., & Fessler, D.M.T. (2014). Conceptual and empirical challenges to the 'Authentic' versus 'Hubristic' model of pride. Emotion, 14, 17-32. PDF

Fessler, D.M.T., Holbrook, C., Pollack, J., & Hahn-Holbrook, J. (2014). Stranger danger: Parenthood and child presence increase the envisioned bodily formidability of menacing men. Evolution and Human Behavior, 35, 109-117. PDF

Jonas, E., McGregor, I., Klackl, J., Agroskin, D., Fritsche, I., Holbrook, C., Nash, K., Proulx, T., & Quirin, M. (2014). Threat and defense: From anxiety to approach. In J. M. Olson & M. P. Zanna (Eds.), Advances in Experimental Social Psychology (pp. 219 - 286). San Diego, CA: Academic Press. PDF

Fessler, D.M.T., & Holbrook, C. (2013). Bound to lose: Physical incapacitation increases the conceptualized size of an antagonist in men. PLOS-ONE. PDF

Piazza, J., Sousa, P., & Holbrook, C. (2013). Authority dependence and judgments of utilitarian harm. Cognition, 128, 261-270. PDF

Holbrook, C., & Sousa, P. (2013). Supernatural beliefs, unconscious threat, and judgment bias in Tibetan Buddhists. Journal of Cognition and Culture, 13, 33-56. PDF

Fessler, D.M.T., & Holbrook, C. (2013). Friends shrink foes: The presence of comrades decreases the envisioned physical formidability of an opponent. Psychological Science, 24, 797-802. PDF

Holbrook, C., & Fessler, D.M.T. (2013). Sizing up the threat: The envisioned physical formidability of terrorists tracks their leaders' failures and successes. Cognition, 127, 46-56. PDF

Holbrook, C., Fessler, D.M.T., & Gervais, M. (2013). Revenge without redundancy: Functional outcomes do not require discrete adaptations for vengeance or forgiveness [Commentary]. Behavioral and Brain Sciences, 36, 22-23. PDF

Fessler, D.M.T., & Holbrook, C. (2013). Baumard et al.'s moral markets lack market dynamics [Commentary]. Behavioral and Brain Sciences, 36, 89-90. PDF

Fessler, D.M.T., Holbrook, C., & Snyder, J.K. (2012). Weapons make the man (larger): Relative formidability influences perceived size and strength. PLOS-ONE. PDF

Holbrook, C., Sousa, P., & Hahn-Holbrook, J. (2011). Unconscious vigilance: Worldview defense without adaptations for terror, coalition or uncertainty management. Journal of Personality and Social Psychology, 101, 451-466. PDF

Hahn-Holbrook, J., Holt-Lunstad, J., Holbrook, C., Coyne, S., & Lawson, E. T. (2011). Maternal defense: Breastfeeding increases aggression by decreasing stress. Psychological Science, 22, 1288-1295. PDF

Hahn-Holbrook, J.*, Holbrook, C.*, & Haselton, M. (2011). Parental precaution: Adaptive ends and neurobiological means. Neuroscience and Biobehavioral Reviews, 35, 1052-1066.
(*equal authorship.) PDF

Sousa, P., & Holbrook, C. (2010). Folk concepts of intentional action in the contexts of amoral and immoral luck. Review of Philosophy and Psychology, 1, 351-370. PDF

Hahn-Holbrook, J., Holbrook, C., & Bering, J. (2010). Snakes, spiders, strangers: How the evolved fear of strangers may misdirect efforts to protect children from harm. In J. M. Lampinen & K. Sexton-Radek (Eds.) Protecting children from violence: Evidence-based interventions. New York: Psychology Press. PDF

Sousa, P., Holbrook, C., & Piazza, J. (2009). The morality of harm. Cognition, 113, 80-92. PDF

Holbrook, C., Hahn-Holbrook, J., & Holt-Lunstad, J. (revise and resubmit). Self-reported spirituality correlates with endogenous oxytocin. Psychology of Religion and Spirituality.

Holbrook, C., Fessler, D.M.T., & Navarrete, C. (revise and resubmit). Stature or danger? Racial stereotypes influence the conceptual links between threat, social status, and physical size. Journal of Personality and Social Psychology.

Fessler, D.M.T., & Holbrook, C. (revise and resubmit). A cold wildfire: Declination and the spread of antisocial behavior. Evolution and Human Behavior.

Holbrook, C., Izuma, K., Deblieck, C., Iacoboni, M., & Fessler, D. M .T. (under review). Neuromodulation of group prejudice and religious belief.

Fessler, D.M.T., Holbrook, C., & Fleischman, D. S. (under review). Assets at risk: Variation in the envisioned formidability of a potential sexual assailant reveals a key component of threat assessment.

Fessler, D.M.T., Holbrook, C., & Dashoff, D.A. (in preparation). Dressed to kill? Visible markers of coalitional affiliation enhance conceptualized formidability.

Holbrook, C., Hahn-Holbrook, J., & Holt-Lunstad, J. (in preparation). Endogenous oxytocin enhances emotional face detection during dyadic conflict.

Holbrook, C., Rosch, E., & Hahn-Holbrook, J. (in preparation). Known unknowns: Inductive reasoning under conscious ignorance.

Fessler, D.M.T., Barrett, H.C., Kanovsky, M., Stich, S., Holbrook, C., Henrich, J., Bolyanatz, A.H., Gervais, M., Gurven, M., Kushnick, G., Pisor, A.C., von Reuden, C., & Laurence, S. (in preparation). Moral parochialism and contextual contingency across seven disparate societies.

Holbrook, C., Fessler, D.M.T., & Pollack, J. (in preparation). With God on your side: Religious primes reduce the envisioned formidability of a prospective adversary.

A few images from my research in Tibet: