Date of Award

May 2020

Document Type


Degree Name

Master of Science (MS)



Committee Member

Kaileigh Byrne

Committee Member

Leo Gugerty

Committee Member

Fred Switzer III


During high-stakes or high-threat situations, decisions must be made very quickly. Certain situational and individual difference factors can have an impact on decision-making under threat. In terms of situational effects, prior research demonstrates that threats that are perceived as farther away may allow for behavioral inhibition. Moreover, individual differences, such as low trait neuroticism and effective coping strategies, may play a mitigating role in the experience of threat, thereby increasing the likelihood of responding adaptively to the situation instead of being reactive. Consequently, the purpose of this study was to examine whether specific factors, including situational reappraisal, changes in target distance, and individual differences in coping and trait neuroticism, influence action-based decision-making in high-threat situations. Action-based decision-making under threat was assessed through the decision to shoot or not shoot a target based on whether or not it was armed. An opportunity for reappraisal was presented with the target changing or staying the same distance. Individual differences examined included neuroticism and coping strategies. The opportunity for reappraisal did not increase decision accuracy. However, reappraisal as a coping strategy was useful in decision accuracy. Increasing the distance of the target during reappraisal also was useful in decision accuracy. Neuroticism, on the other hand, was not a significant predictor of performance. The results from this study may have implications regarding the usefulness of coping strategies in aiding decision-making under high-stakes situations versus the influence of ingrained individual characteristics and the opportunity for reappraisal.



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