Dr. Hannah Volpert-Esmond
My research focuses on two main questions. The first question is how we determine what race, gender, and other social categories another person belongs to. People make split second judgements about whether someone is Black, White, Hispanic, male, female, or gay within hundreds of milliseconds of perceiving a face. Regardless of their accuracy, these category judgments have profound implications for downstream evaluations, expectations, and behavior. I look at quickly occurring brain activity that supports these categorization judgements and how both bottom up factors (skin tone, hair texture, eye shape, etc.) and top down factors (the perceiver’s learning history, expectations, and associations with contextual clues) contribute to categorization decisions. Specifically, I use EEG to measure electrical activity the brain generates that is related to these social category judgements. The second question is how experiences of racial discrimination affect the mental health of individuals in marginalized groups. Although we know from decades of research that discrimination negatively impacts both physical and mental health, the relationship between racial discrimination and mental health is temporally complex— when someone experiences an instance of discrimination or a microaggression, how long do the effects of that experience last? How does the acute stress experienced following an instance of discrimination translate to the chronic stress that impacts both mental and physical health? How are coping mechanisms successful and how does that play out over time? To answer these questions, in addition to examining brain activity, I integrate daily measurements of discrimination, mood, and mental health reported using a smart phone, resulting in repeated measurements over the course of several weeks.
Volpert-Esmond, H. I., Scherer, L. D., & Bartholow, B. D. (2020). Dissociating automatic associations: Comparing two implicit measurements of race bias. European Journal of Social Psychology, 50(4), 876-888.
Volpert-Esmond, H. I., & Bartholow, B. D. (2019). Explicit categorization goals affect attention-related processing of race and gender during person construal. Journal of Experimental Social Psychology, 85, 103839.
Volpert-Esmond, H. I., Merkle, E. C., Levsen, M. P., Ito, T. A., & Bartholow, B. D. (2018). Using trial-level data and multilevel modeling to investigate within-task change in event-related potentials. Psychophysiology, 55, e13044.
Von Gunten, C. D., Bartholow, B. D., & Volpert, H. I. (2016). Perceiving persons: Social cognitive neuroscience approaches. In E. Harmon-Jones & M. Inzlicht (Eds.), Social neuroscience: Biological approaches to social psychology(pp. 10-33). New York: Psychology Press.
Ph.D., University of Missouri (2020)
PSYC 4345 (special topics): Social and Cognitive Neuroscience