Date of Award

Spring 5-15-2017

Author's School

Graduate School of Arts and Sciences

Author's Department


Degree Name

Doctor of Philosophy (PhD)

Degree Type



The present research focused on a real-world event (i.e., the 2015 Paris terrorist attacks) as a basis for gaining insight about the spread of negativity (i.e., “tainting”) from a guilty father to an innocent son. The nature of the relationship between the son and the father was varied experimentally, a manipulation that allowed for investigation into the subjective importance of genetic versus social relationships. Across three experiments, I examined two types of judgments about the son, including responsibility and general evaluation of the target. Responsibility ratings were, on the average, extremely low. Indeed, many participants explicitly attributed no responsibility to the son. However, analyses of the general evaluation index also revealed significant evidence of tainting of the son, relative to a similarly-described person with no connections to the terrorist. Importantly, such evidence emerged even among participants who explicitly denied any responsibility on the part of the son. Moreover, the magnitude of tainting seemed to be determined most strongly by “nurture” (i.e., whether the terrorist father raised the son or not) rather than “nature” (i.e., the presence/absence of a genetic link). Generalizability considerations for extending the present paradigm to related domains are discussed.


English (en)

Chair and Committee

Alan J. Lambert

Committee Members

Joshua J. Jackson, Michael J. Strube, James V. Wertsch, Heike A. Winterheld,


Permanent URL: https://doi.org/10.7936/K78K77J9