Date of Graduation


Document Type


Degree Name

Doctor of Philosophy in Psychology (PhD)

Degree Level



Psychological Science


Matthew T. Feldner

Committee Member

Ellen W. Leen-Feldner

Second Committee Member

Ana J. Bridges


experimental psychopathology, laboratory experiment, Reasons for living, suicide-related stimulus


There are few laboratory-based experiments that examine the effects of suicide-related risk or protective factors on suicide-related outcomes. Consistent with extant evidence-based theoretical models and treatments for suicidal behavior, it appears that increasing awareness of reasons for living may reduce risk for suicidal behavior. Thus, the current study represents an initial effort to experimentally examine the impact of bringing awareness to one’s most important reason for living on behavioral approach towards a suicide-related stimulus. Random assignment was used to assign an unselected undergraduate sample of 78 participants to complete either a script-driven imagery procedure specific to the most important reason for living (experimental condition) or a neutral script-driven imagery procedure (control condition). All participants subsequently engaged in a behavioral approach task, designed to measure approach towards a suicide-related stimulus. It was predicted that participants in the experimental condition would exhibit less approach towards the suicide-related stimulus as compared to participants in the control condition. Contrary to predictions, participants in the experimental condition were not less likely to approach the suicide-related stimulus. Findings and future directions are considered within the context of the broader scientific literature. Strengths and challenges of the experimental paradigm are also discussed.