Publication Date


Document Type


First Advisor

Rubin, Herbert J.

Degree Name

M.A. (Master of Arts)

Legacy Department

Department of Sociology


Threat (Psychology)


This paper tested the theoretical proposition that compliance to threats is the result of the following three step process: 1) threatener behaviors influence target perceptions of the threatener himself; 2) these perceptions affect the target’s subjective estimate of the probability of being punished for not complying with the threat; and 3) subjective estimates of the probability of compliance directly affect the probability of target compliance. Seventy-two college students were asked to read a description of a "mugging" scene in which a mugger threatened to kill his victim unless a police officer allowed the mugger to escape unmolested. The mugger's Statement of Costs to himself for failing to gain compliance and mugger Irrationality were experimentally manipulated in order to test the hypothesis that threatener behaviors influenced target Believability. Manipulation checks of target perceptions of threatener behavior were taken in order to measure the effects of the experimental manipulations. Analysis of variance revealed that the Costs manipulation significantly affected perceptions of threatener costs, and that manipulations of threatener Irrationality influenced perceptions of Irrationality. Perceived Irrationality only affected Believability at a marginal level, but perceptions of threatener costs significantly affected Believability at the .05 level. Believability was moderately correlated with Compliance (r = .37). A subsequent path analysis indicated that the theorized threat-compliance process was basically correct, although the path coefficients were relatively weak. An unanticipated suppressor effect was discovered: target perceptions of threatener logic tended to suppress the effects of perceptions of threatener irrationality on target believability.


Includes bibliographical references.||Pagination skips number 29.


vi, 87 pages




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