Date of Award

Spring 1991

Project Type


Program or Major


Degree Name

Doctor of Philosophy

First Advisor

Ellen S Cohn


Different methodological approaches were taken to explore the role of situational variables and personality factors that measure the motivational component of self presentation on degree of subjects' reported feelings of threat and their response time to complete self-directed humorous or embarrassing situations. In Study 1 a questionnaire approach was utilized and qualitative as well as quantitative data was analyzed. Specifically, humorous and embarrassing situations that male and female subjects provided were compared. Relations were found between personality measures and reported degree of threat. Study 2 included a response time measure and number of times a subject made another person the target of the situation as dependent measures in addition to the threat measure. It was found that the threat measure was affected most by the personality factors. When controlling for motivation (personality) and threat (affect), there were still significant effects for condition on response time. Subjects took longer to complete embarrassing than humorous situations. This result suggests that there are cognitive elements involved in self presentation. In Study 3, degree of threat posed by the companion was manipulated. While there were no effects for threat, when motivation and affect were controlled for, there were significant companion gender by degree of threat interactions for response time and number of reversals. Subjects took longer to complete humorous situations when they were with high threat females and low threat males, and they also performed fewer reversals when they were with low threat females than any other companion. It is suggested that this interaction has its basis in cognitive processing. Implications of this research for continuing to explore the role of both motivation and cognition in self presentation are discussed.