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Melissa M. McDonald, Ph.D.


Associate Professor
204 Pryale Hall
(248) 370-4195
Fax: (248) 370-4612
[email protected]

Ph.D. Michigan State University (2013)
M.A. Michigan State University (2010)
B.S. Grand Valley State University (2008)

I received a dual-degree Ph.D. from Michigan State University in Social/Personality Psychology and Ecology, Evolutionary Biology, and Behavior. Following my graduate education, I completed a one-year postdoctoral research position at the Interdisciplinary Center in Herzliya, Israel, where I worked with the Psychology of Intergroup Conflict and Reconciliation Lab examining psychological barriers to conflict resolution.

I am the principal investigator of the Personality and Evolutionary Psychology Lab (PEP Lab) at Oakland University. We apply an interdisciplinary framework that draws on theoretical and empirical work in social, personality, and evolutionary psychology. The lab is currently focused on two broad research areas: (1) the causes, consequences, and remedies for intergroup bias, and (2) developing an understanding of the psychology that underpins women’s fear of rape, including the factors that exacerbate that fear, and how fear drives particular behaviors aimed at mitigating threats of sexual assault. More information can be found on https://www.mcdonaldpeplab.com/.


James, R. M., McDonald, M. M., & Weekes-Shackelford, V. (in press). Women’s avoidance of sexual assault. In D. M. Buss & P. Durkhee (Eds.), Handbook of human mating. Oxford University Press.

Kotoye, C. & McDonald, M. M. (in press). Emotions and intergroup conflict. In L. Al-Shawaf & T. K. Shackelford (Eds.), The Oxford handbook of evolution and the emotions. Oxford University Press.

Roberto, D. P., James, R. M., & McDonald, M. M. (in press). Evolution of precopulatory defense from rape and coercion in women. In T. K. Shackelford (Ed.), The Cambridge handbook of evolutionary perspectives on sexual psychology. Cambridge University Press.

McDonald, M. M., James, R. M., & Roberto, D. P. (2021). True crime consumption as defensive vigilance: Psychological mechanisms of a rape avoidance system. Archives of Sexual Behavior, 50(5), 2085-2108.

Tratner, A. E., & McDonald, M. M. (2020). Genocide and the male-warrior psychology. In L. S. Newman (Ed.), Why are they doing this to us? The social psychology of genocide and extreme intergroup violence. Oxford University Press.

Tratner, A. E., Sela, Y., Lopes, G. S., Shackelford, T. K., McDonald, M. M., Weekes-Shackelford, V. A., & Abed, M. G. (2020). Childhood religious experiences with peers and primary caregivers: Associations with individual differences in adult religiosity. Personality and Individual Differences, 158, 109802.

Tratner, A. E., Shackelford, T. K., Zeigler-Hill, V., Vonk, J., & McDonald, M. M. (2020). Fear the unseen: Supernatural belief and agency detection in virtual reality. Religion, Brain, and Behavior, 10, 118-131.  

Jeffery, A. J., Shackelford, T. K., Zeigler-Hill, V., Vonk, J., & McDonald, M. M. (2019). The evolution of human female sexual orientation. Evolutionary Psychological Science, 5(1), 71-86.

McDonald, M. M., Zeigler-Hill, V., Vrabel, J. K., & Escobar, M. E. (2019). A Single-item Measure for Assessing STEM Identity. Frontiers in Education.

McDonald, M. M., Coleman, B., & Brindley, S. (2019). Calibrating fear of rape: Threat likelihood and victimization costs. Personality and Individual Differences, 139, 326-330.

McDonald, M. M., Brindley, S., Halperin, E., & Saguy, T. (2019). Promoting intergroup openness and support for equality in a new cultural context: Replicating the effects of internal criticism. Journal of Social Psychology, 159(3), 349-356.

Brindley, S., McDonald, M. M., Welling, L. L. M., & Zeigler-Hill, V. (2018).  An evolutionary perspective on intergroup dating bias. Comprehensive Results in Social Psychology, 3(1), 28-55. 

Malovicki-Yaffe, N., McDonald, M. M., Halperin, E., & Saguy, T. (2018). God, sex and money among the Ultra-Orthodox in Israel: An integrated sociocultural and evolutionary perspective. Evolution and Human Behavior, 39, 622-631.

McDonald, M. M., Brindley, S., Halperin, E., & Saguy, T. (2018). Outgroup members' internal criticism promotes intergroup openness: The role of perceived risk. British Journal of Social Psychology, 57(1), 95–111.

McDonald, M. M., Defever, A., & Navarrete, C. D. (2017). Killing for the greater good: Action aversion and the emotional inhibition of harm in moral dilemmas. Evolution and Human Behavior, 38(6), 770–778.

McDonald, M.M., Porat, R., Yarkoney, A., Reifen Tagar, M., Kimel, S., Saguy, T., & Halperin E. (2017). Intergroup emotional similarity reduces dehumanization and promotes conciliatory attitudes in prolonged conflict. Group Processes and Intergroup Relations, 20, 125-136.

McDonald, M.M., Donnellan, M.B., Cesario, J., & Navarrete, C.D. (2015). Mate choice preferences in an intergroup context: Evidence for a sexual coercion threat-management system among women. Evolution and Human Behavior, 36, 438-445.

McDonald, M.M. & Navarrete, C.D. (2015). Examining the link between conception risk and intergroup bias: The importance of conceptual coherence. [Commentary on “In search of an association between conception risk and prejudice” by C. Hawkins, C. Fitzgerald, & B. Nosek]. Psychological Science, 26, 253-255.

McDonald, M.M., Donnellan, M.B., Lang, R., & Nikolajuk, K. (2014). Treating prejudice with imagery: Easier said than done? Psychological Science, 25, 837-839.

Navarrete, C. D., & McDonald, M. M (2014). Sexual selection and the psychology of intergroup conflict. In T. K. Shackelford & R. Hansen (Eds.), The evolution of violence (pp. 99–116). New York, NY: Springer. 

Cesario, J., & McDonald, M.M. (2013). Bodies in context: Power poses as a computation of action possibility. Social Cognition, 31, 260-274.

McDonald, M.M. & Donnellan, M.B. (2012). Is ostracism a strong situation? The influence of personality in reactions to rejection. Journal of Research in Personality, 46, 614-618.

McDonald, M.M., Donnellan, M.B., & Navarrete, C.D. (2012). A life history approach to understanding the Dark Triad. Personality and Individual Differences, 52, 601–605.

McDonald, M.M., Navarrete, C.D., & Van Vugt, M. (2012). Evolution and the psychology of intergroup conflict: The male warrior hypothesis. Philosophical Transactions of the Royal Society B: Biological Sciences, 367, 670-679.

Navarrete, C.D. & McDonald, M.M. (2012). Faustian bargains for minorities within group-based hierarchies [Commentary on “Beyond prejudice: Are negative evaluations the problem? Is getting us to like one another more the solution?” by J. Dixon, M. Levine, S. Reicher, & K. Durheim]. Behavioral and Brain Sciences, 35, 442-443.

Navarrete, C.D., McDonald, M.M., & Asher, B. (2012). Virtual Morality: Emotion and action in a simulated 3-D “Trolley Problem.” Emotion, 12, 364-370.

Navarrete, C.D., McDonald, M.M., Asher, B., Kerr, N., Yokota, K., Olsson, A., & Sidanius, J. (2012). Fear is readily associated with an out-group face in a minimal group context. Evolution and Human Behavior, 33, 590-593.

McDonald, M.M., Asher, B.D., Kerr, N., & Navarrete, C.D. (2011). Fertility and intergroup bias in racial and minimal group contexts: Evidence for shared architecture. Psychological Science, 22, 860-865.

McDonald, M. M., Navarrete, C. D., & Sidanius, J. (2011). Developing a theory of gendered prejudice: An evolutionary and social dominance perspective. In R. M. Kramer, G. J. Leonardelli, & R. W. Livingston (Eds.), Social cognition, social identity, and intergroup relations: A Festschrift in honor of Marilynn B. Brewer (pp. 189-220). New York, NY: Psychology Press Festschrift Series.

Navarrete, C.D., McDonald, M.M., Molina, L.E., & Sidanius, J. (2010). Prejudice at the nexus of race and gender: An out-group male target hypothesis. Journal of Personality and Social Psychology, 98, 933-945.

Navarrete, C.D., McDonald, M.M., Mott, M.L., Cesario, J., & Sapolsky, R. (2010). Fertility and race perception predict voter preference for Barack Obama. Evolution and Human Behavior, 31, 394-399.

Tybur, J.M., Merriman, L.A., Caldwell-Hooper, A.E., McDonald, M.M., & Navarrete, C.D. (2010). Extending the behavioral immune system to political psychology: Are political conservatism and disgust sensitivity really related?  Evolutionary Psychology, 8, 599-616.

Department of Psychology

Pryale Hall, Room 111
654 Pioneer Drive
Rochester, MI 48309-4482
(location map)
(248) 370-2300
Fax: (248) 370-4612