Document Type


Degree Name

Doctor of Philosophy (PhD)



Program Name/Specialization

Social Psychology


Faculty of Science

First Advisor

Dr. Justin V. Cavallo

Advisor Role



A person’s prior investment in their romantic relationship is a strong predictor of whether they remain committed to that relationship (e.g., Le et al., 2010; Rusbult, 1980a; 1983), and this pattern is often seen outside of interpersonal contexts as well (e.g., Arkes & Blumer, 1985; Olivola, 2018; Thaler, 1980). However, little research has considered the extent to which commitment-relevant decisions might be affected in a top-down way by people’s implicit theories of relationships (ITRs; Knee, 1998). I theorized that lay theories about how relationships work may affect the extent that people consider past investments when making decisions about continuing with a course of relationship action (or not). Across five online experiments using undergraduate student and adult samples (total N = 1,826), I tested the hypothesis that greater (vs. lesser) relationship investments would influence when people chose to continue with the current course of action or choose to pursue an alternative one, and that this effect would be enhanced amongst people with a stronger growth belief. I hypothesized that higher investment and stronger growth beliefs would lead people to form more optimistic expectations about continuing with a current course of action in the relationship, versus choosing an alternative course of action. Results revealed that greater investment predicted a preference for staying on a current course of action over an alternative one, compared to when there was lower investment. As well, stronger growth beliefs sometimes predicted a preference for staying on a current course of action over an alternative one, compared to weaker growth beliefs. However, the results from these five studies did not support my hypothesis that these two factors would interact. These data suggest that investment size has a much more robust effect on shaping relationship decisions whereas implicit theories of relationships do not seem to reliably make someone more or less sensitive to relationship investments when making these decisions.

Convocation Year


Convocation Season