Wilson Merrell

LIFE Michigan

LIFE Fellow since 2021, University of Michigan

I am a doctoral candidate in Social Psychology at the University of Michigan, working with Josh Ackerman and Arnold Ho. I graduated from Macalester College in 2016 with a BA in Economics and Psychology, and worked for two years as an economic consultant at the Brattle Group in Washington DC before starting my doctoral studies in Ann Arbor. I am broadly interested in how fundamental (evolutionary) motivations shape judgment and decision-making in modern contexts. In one line of research, I examine how status-seeking motives influence perceptions of different consumer behaviors. In another, I am testing how motives to avoid physical harm shape stereotype formation in intergroup contexts. Broadly, I hope to integrate these, and other, lines of inquiry across evolutionary and ontogenetic levels of analysis to understand how fundamental motives shift and drive social outcomes across the lifespan.


Fessler, D. M. T., Merrell, W., Holbrook, C., & Ackerman, J. (2022). Beware the foe who feels no pain: Associations between relative formidability and pain sensitivity in three U.S. online studies. Evolution and Human Behavior, 44(1), 1–10. https://doi.org/10.1016/j.evolhumbehav.2022.11.003

Choi, S., Merrell, W. N., & Ackerman, J. M. (2022). Keep your distance: Different roles for knowledge and affect in predicting social distancing behavior. Journal of Health Psychology, 27(12), 2847–2859. https://doi.org/10.1177/13591053211067100

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