Date of Award


Document Type

Campus Access Thesis

Degree Name

Master of Arts (MA)


Clinical Psychology

First Advisor

Michael A. Milburn

Second Advisor

John E. Perez

Third Advisor

Laurel D. Wainwright


The primary goal of the current study was to determine whether death anxiety would affect attributions of hostility in a university population. The impact of loneliness and self-reported childhood punishment were also explored as potential moderators of this relationship. The participants--229 undergraduate students--filled out online measures of loneliness, childhood punishment, and hostile attribution bias, as well as demographic information. Half the participants were randomly assigned to respond to two open-ended questions designed to elicit a death anxiety response prior to the hostile attribution bias questionnaire, while the other half were assigned to a control condition (responding to two questions about a painful dental procedure). Regression analysis indicated that, contrary to the study's hypothesis, there was no main effect of death anxiety on hostile attribution bias. However, results did reveal an interaction trend of death anxiety and loneliness on attributions of hostility. In the control condition, loneliness and hostile attribution bias were positively correlated, while there was no correlation in the death anxiety group. Contrary to the study's hypothesis, death anxiety led participants to be more, rather than less, similar in their attributions of hostility regardless of their loneliness level. Finally, there was no interaction effect of childhood punishment and death anxiety on attributions of hostility, although there was an unexpected effect of death anxiety on reported childhood punishment. Participants in the control condition reported significantly higher levels of punishment from both mothers and fathers than those in the death anxiety condition.


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