Electronic Theses and Dissertations

Date of Award


Document Type


Degree Name

Ph.D. in Psychology

First Advisor

Kelly G. Wilson

Second Advisor

John P. Bentley


University of Mississippi

Relational Format



Aversive control is an umbrella term for behavioral contingencies influenced by the removal or avoidance of aversive stimuli. When individuals are engaging in behavior that is under aversive control the behavior becomes relatively insensitive to changes in the environment outside of trying to escape or avoid the aversive stimulation. Teaching individuals to increase behavioral and psychological flexibility around potentially aversive stimuli is a goal of a therapeutic perspective called Acceptance and Commitment Therapy (ACT). ACT therapists and trainers use values to motivate their clients to engage in meaningful behaviors despite ever-changing and often aversive contexts. The aim of the current study is to analyze the effects of a values-related task on behavior in behavioral approach tasks with established aversive stimuli. College students (N = 200) completed questionnaires about psychological flexibility and contamination fear and participated in behavioral approach tasks with perceived contaminated stimuli. The data suggests that reported contamination fear is a better predictor of engagement in aversive stimuli than reported psychological flexibility. Additionally individuals are more likely to engage in aversive stimuli if it is related to a personal value versus for a relatively arbitrary reward (i.e. tickets) or unspecified consequence.



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