Publication Date


Document Type


First Advisor

Skowronski, John J.||Milner, Joel S.

Degree Name

Ph.D. (Doctor of Philosophy)

Legacy Department

Department of Psychology


Social psychology; Behaviorism (Psychology)


A social information-processing model of child physical abuse predicts that reducing negative evaluations about children should also reduce situational-based attributions of hostile intent, anger, and harsh and harmful parenting behaviors. Previous research provided evidence that use of a positive evaluative conditioning (EC) procedure is effective at reducing these situationally based variables. The purpose of the two studies reported in this dissertation is to explore possible mechanisms that can explain the effects that positive EC has on these variables. Study 1 (N = 77) employed three EC procedures (forward positive, backward positive, and forward pseudo) to examine how well three theories of EC (referential, propositional, and affective implicit misattribution) explain previous research results. Study 2 (N = 50) tested whether previous research results could be explained by semantic learning (i.e., that children have positive traits). In contrast to Study 1 and previous research, Study 2 employed stimuli (emojis) that were relatively devoid of semantic content. If effects were observed in Study 2, semantic learning could be ruled out as the sole mechanism underlying effects of positive EC. Results of Study 1 showed that backward positive EC (generally) produced many of the same effects that the forward positive EC produced. Based on Study 1 results, it is concluded that referential and propositional processes mediated EC effects in forward positive EC, whereas propositional and affective implicit misattribution processes mediated EC effects in the backward positive EC. Results of Study 2 (using emojis instead of trait words) showed that positive EC produced many of the same positive EC effects observed in Study 1 and previous research. Based on results from Study 2, it is concluded that semantic learning cannot fully account for the effects observed in Study 1 and previous research.


Advisors: John J. Skowronski; Joel S. Milner.||Committee members: Julie L. Crouch; Amanda M. Durik; Randy J. McCarthy; Brad J. Sagarin.||Includes illustrations.||Includes bibliographical references.


223 pages




Northern Illinois University

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