Date of Award
Doctor of Philosophy (PhD)
Dr. June Pilcher, Committee Chair
Dr. Thomas Britt
Dr. Chris Pagano
Dr. Robert Powell
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.
Morris, Drew Michael, "Evidence for a Perceptual Recalibration of Self-Control during Thermal Stress" (2018). All Dissertations. 2202.