Date of Award


Degree Type


Degree Name

Doctor of Philosophy


Supporters of the inhibition-confrontation model of coping assert that inhibition of thoughts and feelings associated with traumatic life events requires the expenditure of physiological resources. This places the body under stress and results in an increased vulnerability to illness. By disclosing the traumatic event, it is believed that inhibition is released, reducing the strain on the body and the proclivity toward disease.;The primary purpose of the present study is to broaden this model by demonstrating that differences in uncertainty orientation will mediate the extent to which disclosure results in a release of inhibition for all persons. The theory of uncertainty orientation differentiates between those who are motivated to approach personally relevant and threatening information and those who are not. It is argued that disclosing a traumatic event reflects these characteristics. Therefore, it was predicted that the greatest release of inhibition and the greatest arousal would be exhibited when the disclosure process corresponded with an individual's uncertainty orientation. A second goal of the study was to distinguish the implications of individual differences in uncertainty orientation from those of repression-sensitization and sex.;Participants discussed a traumatic event and a neutral event while continuous skin conductance and heart rate measures were obtained. In addition, physical health was assessed during the disclosure session and again, four months later for exploratory purposes.;As predicted, for those who disclosed a high intensity trauma, uncertainty-oriented persons exhibited less inhibition (as measured by skin conductance levels) relative to certainty-oriented persons. The opposite pattern was found for disclosers of low-intensity traumas. Further, uncertainty-oriented persons who disclosed a high intensity event exhibited a greater increase in arousal (as measured by heart rate) during the talking phase and a greater decrease arousal during the resting phase relative to their certainty-oriented persons counterparts. The opposite pattern was found for disclosers of low intensity events. No differences emerged as a function of discussion topic condition and few long-term health outcomes were found. However, this study provided evidence to distinguish uncertainty orientation from other individual difference measures, including repression-sensitization.



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