Date of Award

8-2018

Document Type

Dissertation

Degree Name

Doctor of Philosophy (PhD)

Department

Psychology

Committee Member

Dr. June Pilcher, Committee Chair

Committee Member

Dr. Thomas Britt

Committee Member

Dr. Chris Pagano

Committee Member

Dr. Robert Powell

Abstract

Introduction: Stress can negatively affect conscientiousness, decision making, behavior inhibition, and other examples of self-control. Environmental cold stress has been shown to curtail various aspects of cognitive performance, however the extent to which thermal stress may impact general measures of self-control is unknown. The purpose of the current dissertation is to understand how cold stress impacts executive functioning based self-control, the delay of gratification, state self-report self-control, and performance persistency; and whether variability in self-control failure can be predicted. Method: The current research explores the relationship between thermal stress and self-control across two studies. Cold stress was manipulated using cooling packs and direct blowing air. Thermal stress was subjectively measured using a Thermal Comfort Assessment questionnaire and objectively measured using ear and skin temperature along with skin conductance, respiration, and electromyographic measures of sympathetic reactivity. Study 1: Using a counterbalanced within-subjects design with two conditions, 50 participants performed the Arrow Flankers task and Stop-Signal task; which measure executive functioning based self-control. Study 2: Using a between-subjects design, 76 participants performed four tasks in a cold stress or comfortable condition. Participants completed a difficult drawing puzzle, a handgrip task, the State Self-Control Capacity Scale, and Monetary Choice Questionnaire; which measure performance persistency based self-control, self-report state self-control, and delay of gratification respectively. Result: Study 1: Cold stress did not impact executive functioning based self-control. Study 2: Cold stress did not impact performance persistency ability or the ability to delay gratification. However, cold stress did reduce individual's perception of their own self-report state self-control ability. Those with high and low trait self-control reported they felt less able to use self-control while cold, although performance was not affected. Conclusion: These studies provide original evidence that we calibrate our perception of personal self-regulatory ability based on comfort, and that we recalibrate to fit thermally stressful situations.

Share

COinS