Colin Holbrook

Research Scientist
UCLA Center for Behavior, Evolution, & Culture

I study the influence of threat-detection on reasoning and moral evaluation of acts of harm. In related work, I also research the conceptual representation of threat in terms of bodily size/strength, and the role of parental love in defensive aggression and vigilance against potential hazards.


Holbrook, C., Fessler, D.M.T., & Navarrete, C. (in press). Looming large in others’ eyes: Racial stereotypes illuminate dual adaptations for representing threat versus prestige as physical size. Evolution and Human Behavior. PDF

Holbrook, C. (in press). Branches of a twisting tree: Domain-specific threat psychologies derive from shared mechanisms. Current Opinion in Psychology.

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

Sousa, P., Holbrook, C., & Swiney, L. (in press). Moral asymmetries in judgments of agency withstand ludicrous causal deviance. Frontiers in Psychology. PDF

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. (2015). Moral parochialism and contextual contingency across seven disparate societies. Proceedings of the Royal Society B: Biological Sciences, 282, 20150907. PDF

Holbrook, C., & Fessler, D.M.T. (2015). The same, only different: Threat management systems as homologues in the tree of life. In Handbook of Personal Security, P. J. Carroll, R. M. Arkin, and A. L. Wichman, eds., pp. 95-109. New York: Psychology Press. PDF

Fessler, D.M.T., Holbrook, C., & Fleischman, D.S. (2015). Assets at risk: Menstrual cycle variation in the envisioned formidability of a potential sexual assailant reveals a component of threat assessment. Adaptive Human Behavior & Physiology, 1, 270-290. PDF

Fessler, D.M.T., & Holbrook, C. (2014). Marching into battle: Synchronized walking diminishes the conceptualized formidability of an antagonist in men. Biology Letters. PDF

Holbrook, C., Hahn-Holbrook, J., & Holt-Lunstad, J. (2014). Self-reported spirituality correlates with endogenous oxytocin. Psychology of Religion and Spirituality, 7, 46-50. PDF

Fessler, D.M.T., Holbrook, C., Tiohkin, L., & Snyder, J.K. (2014). Sizing up Helen: Nonviolent physical risk-taking enhances the envisioned bodily formidability of women. Journal of Evolutionary Psychology, 12, 67-80. 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. (2014). Men's physical strength moderates conceptualizations of prospective foes in two disparate human societies. Human Nature, 25, 393-409. 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., Izuma, K., Deblieck, C., Iacoboni, M., & Fessler, D. M .T. (resubmitted). Neuromodulation of group prejudice and religious belief. Social Cognitive & Affective Neuroscience.

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

Holbrook, C., Fessler, D.M.T., & Pollack, J. (invited resubmission). With God on your side: Religious primes reduce the envisioned physical formidability of a menacing adversary. Cognition.

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.

A few images from Tibet: