Degree Type


Date of Award


Degree Name

Doctor of Philosophy



First Advisor

Frederick X. Gibbons

Second Advisor

Meg Gerrard

Third Advisor

Douglas G. Bonett


The current study investigated the effects of stress and self-control depletion on subsequent risk cognitions. Male college students (N = 133) were randomly assigned to complete a stress induction, a self-control manipulation, or a control task. All participants then completed a questionnaire containing measures of behavioral willingness, behavioral intentions, perceived vulnerability, and consideration of negative consequences regarding two risk behaviors: heavy drinking and casual sex. The order of the dependent measures (drinking measures first vs. casual sex measures first) was counterbalanced as a between-subjects factor.;Compared to the control task, it was predicted that both the stress induction and self-control depletion manipulation would lead to greater willingness to engage in the risk behaviors. Intentions were not expected to change as much as willingness in response to either manipulation. Different mediating mechanisms were hypothesized for stress and self-control depletion. The relation between stress and willingness was predicted to be mediated by emotional and physiological variables (negative affect and arousal), whereas the relation between self-control depletion and willingness was expected to be mediated by cognitive variables (perceived vulnerability and consideration of negative consequences).;As predicted, participants in the stress condition reported greater willingness than did those in the control condition. Unexpectedly, the self-control depletion manipulation did not lead to greater willingness. As anticipated, there was very little change in intention due to either experimental manipulation. In general, no effects of the order of the dependent measures (or interactions between order and condition) were detected. There was no evidence that negative affect or physiological arousal mediated the relation between stress and willingness. Instead, results indicated that decreases in perceived vulnerability mediated the effect of stress on willingness.;The experimental manipulations did not affect the level of participants' perceived vulnerability or the extent to which they considered the positive and negative consequences of the risk behaviors. There were differences between conditions, however, in the correlations between considerations, perceived vulnerability, and willingness. The pattern of these correlations suggests that, among stressed participants, perceived vulnerability and consideration of negative consequences were not related to willingness. Perhaps people who are under stress focus on improving their emotional state at the expense of careful consideration of the risks associated with the behavior.



Digital Repository @ Iowa State University,

Copyright Owner

Amy E. Houlihan



Proquest ID


OCLC Number




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File Size

101 pages