Date of Award

Fall 1997

Project Type


Program or Major


Degree Name

Doctor of Philosophy

First Advisor

Directors: J Anthony Nevin


The relationship between relativistic thinking and identity formation was examined. Relativistic thinking is the ability to accept the subjective nature of knowledge and values and has been shown to develop during college. It was predicted that as students become more relativistic in their thinking, they also realize that their own perception of reality is relative too. This causes an identity crisis, resulting in a mature identity. A one-year longitudinal study showed that changes in identity (increased moratorium) were related to changes in thinking (increased relativism). Students in different college majors were shown to think differently about the nature of knowledge and show different identities, supporting the idea that thinking is related to identity formation. Also, as students develop a mature sense of identity their locus of control orientations may change. An internal locus of control and relativistic thinking were related to the active exploration of identity, whereas belief in powerful others as determiners of one's fate and dualistic thinking were related to an immature identity. Finally, intimacy development was associated with identity and thinking. Students with a lot of experience in dating relationships (high intimacy development) were likely to be actively exploring their identities at the same time, supporting the idea that identity and intimacy development may occur at the same time. Yet, intimacy was not found to be related to relativistic thinking.