Term of Award

Fall 2018

Degree Name

Doctor of Psychology in Clinical Psychology (Psy.D.)

Document Type and Release Option

Dissertation (open access)

Copyright Statement / License for Reuse

Creative Commons License
This work is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution 4.0 License.


Department of Psychology

Committee Chair

Shauna Joye

Committee Member 1

Jeff Klibert

Committee Member 2

Thresa Yancey


This study aimed to examine expressions of optimism bias and perceived controllability specifically regarding risks often associated with military service. Optimism bias refers to people’s tendency to believe they are less susceptible to experiencing negative life events compared to others. Previous studies show high levels of optimism bias are associated with strong perceptions of personal controllability. Optimism bias is a significant aspect of health promotion research particularly in the field of general occupational health and safety (OHS). However, optimism bias has never been investigated in the military OHS domain. Given the number of risks associated with military occupations, examination of optimism bias in the context of military OHS can provide useful information to enhance current military OHS risk prevention measures. We analyzed data from 145 non-military college students. They were randomly assigned to make risk judgments based on one of two deployment vignettes (first person and third person). Results of the study confirmed previous findings indicating perceived controllability was associated with optimism bias, but only for specific deployment-related events (i.e., experiencing relationship distress during deployment and alcohol use as a means to cope with combat stress post deployment). Results further revealed a main effect of point of view for two of the four studied variables in terms of optimism bias and three of four variables in terms of perceived controllability, though the direction of findings was not always as predicted. Whether participants had a caregiver in the military did not impact either optimism bias or perceived controllability, nor did point of view and having a caregiver in the military interact to affect either optimism bias or perceived controllability for any of the four variables. Implications to practice of health protective behaviors as well as directions for future research are discussed.

Research Data and Supplementary Material