Date of Award


Document Type


Degree Name

Master of Science (MS)


Applied Psychology

Committee Chair/Advisor

Dr. Dawn Sarno

Committee Member

Dr. Jacqueline Mogle

Committee Member

Dr. Patrick Warren


Digital deception, such as phishing emails, scam phone calls, and fake news, poses a threat to anyone using digital devices. Research on digital deception often points to individual differences like age, cognitive impulsivity, and digital literacy, but has only investigated different types of digital deception independent of each other. Therefore, it is unclear whether users vulnerable to one type of deception are also vulnerable to others, and why. The present research examined relationships between vulnerability to different types of deception, and how this vulnerability is associated with common individual differences like age, cognitive impulsivity, digital literacy, and gullibility, and exploratory individual differences like social desirability and political leaning. Additionally, relationships between individual differences and reporting behaviors were explored. A sample of 295 online participants completed individual difference measures and classified 30 emails, 30 news headlines, and 30 voicemails as legitimate (50%) or not legitimate (50%). Results revealed performance in each task was related to performance in the other tasks. Initial multivariate analyses revealed that impulsivity and digital literacy predicted detection abilities, and age predicted caution across the three tasks. However, subsequent univariate analyses indicated only impulsivity predicted detection abilities in all three tasks, and predictors of abilities were otherwise specific to each task. Exploratory analyses revealed relationships between social desirability and detection abilities in the phishing and vishing tasks. Furthermore, confidence and digital literacy were associated with reporting behaviors in all tasks. Overall, strategies for mitigating digital deception may be improved by considering both domain-specific and domain-general vulnerabilities.

Available for download on Friday, May 31, 2024