Author's School

Graduate School of Arts & Sciences

Author's Department/Program



English (en)

Date of Award

January 2009

Degree Type


Degree Name

Doctor of Philosophy (PhD)

Chair and Committee

Martha Storandt


The premise of this dissertation is based on the work of M. Powell Lawton, in particular his theories of Environmental Press: Lawton and Nahemow, 1973) and the Dual-Channel Hypothesis: Lawton, 1996; Lawton, Winter, Kleban, & Ruckdeschel, 1999). Study 1 used a correlational approach to test Lawton and colleagues: 1999) model in a community sample of people across the adult lifespan, thereby expanding previous findings to individuals under age 60. Study 2 used an experimental approach to determine if individuals are affectively susceptible to differing environmental conditions based on their performance on a cognitive task. Whereas Study 1 provided a naturalistic picture of the interrelationships between affect and how individuals perceive the various facets of their lives, Study 2 allowed for a controlled look at the singular effect of objective environment on affective experience. In the correlational study I found that Lawton's dual channel hypothesis: 1996) was an insufficient model for explaining the relationships between quality of life and affect. The quality of an older adult's physical health directly influenced negative affect and indirectly influenced positive affect by influencing the quality of externally engaging phenomena such as environmental satisfaction and time quality, which in turn directly influenced positive affect. These relationships were replicated in a younger sample, providing further evidence that the dual channel hypothesis is insufficient as a model of quality of life and affect and that these relationships are as complex in younger adults as they are in older adults. The findings from Study 2 contributed to this notion. With age, the more it appears we actively select environmental conditions that allow us to maximize our positive affect and minimize our negative affect. Perhaps most notably is the role personality played in how individuals perceived and managed their environment and how individuals experienced affect. Neurotic individuals were not only more prone to perceive their lives as lower in quality, but they were also more sensitive to poor environmental conditions. These studies reveal the complexity of the relationships between how we perceive our lives, how we experience our environments, and how these perceptions and experiences influence our subjective well-being.


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