Document Type


Degree Name

Master of Arts (MA)



Program Name/Specialization

Social Psychology


Faculty of Arts

First Advisor

Dr. Anne E. Wilson

Advisor Role



For most, change makes a regular appearance in everyday life and has the capacity to usher in excitement, growth, and chaos. Due to the variable nature of change, people may hold subjective definitions of what “change” typically means. Across four studies, we examine the possibility that there are meaningful individual differences in the dominant subjective definitions people hold about the nature of change. Study 1 and 2 investigated the spontaneous associations participants make when asked to think about change, and found that holding a positive or negative general view about change (as measured by the Nature of Change scale, developed by the researchers) predicts the valence of self-generated associations. Studies 1 and 2 also demonstrate that people with an implicit entity theory of change (believing that people largely cannot change) report more negative and less positive dominant definitions of change than incremental theorists who believe people’s attributes are changeable. Study 3 expands on this finding to demonstrate a link between beliefs about the Nature of Change and beliefs about the role of effort in attributions of success. Participants who believe change is positive, predictable and controllable are more likely to believe that success is a product of effort than participants who believe change is negative, unpredictable and uncontrollable. Definitions of change predict success attributions over and above people’s implicit incremental or entity theories, which have previously been shown to predict attributions. Finally, Study 4 investigates the possibility that more precise definitions of change (as improvement, decline, or random) would alter people’s responses to the implicit theories scale, demonstrating that responses are somewhat contingent on definitions of change Further, change defined as improvement, decline, or random differentially predicted success attributions, which are also again predicted by people’s Nature of Change definitions. Overall, the current set of studies demonstrates that individual differences in people’s reactions to change are important to consider and may be as dynamic and diverse as change itself.

Convocation Year


Convocation Season