Undergraduate Honors Theses

Thesis Defended

Spring 2017

Document Type


Type of Thesis

Departmental Honors


Psychology & Neuroscience

First Advisor

Dr. Steven F. Maier

Second Advisor

Dr. Jerry W. Rudy

Third Advisor

Dr. Nancy A. Guild

Fourth Advisor

Dr. Jennifer M. Martin


For many years it has been known that perceived behavioral control over an adverse event, referred to here as stress, can prevent the immediate, or acute, behavioral and neurochemical impacts typically associated with an adverse event. Additionally, behavioral control has been shown to immunize, or protect, against the behavioral and neurochemical effects of future stress, even in the absence of control. However, there are no previous studies which investigate the proactive impact that an initial experience of stress without behavioral control might have on the acute protection and immunization provided by future controllability. Here, stress over which the subject had no behavioral control was administered prior to stress over which the subject perceived control in order to determine the effect on the acute and immunization effects typically associated with controllability. Behavioral results suggest that prior stress without the experience of control has no impact on the acute protection provided by future controllability, but blunts the ability of later control to immunize against future adverse events. Clinically, these results imply that prior trauma may impact the ability to reestablish behavioral control over future stress, which may prevent trauma survivors from developing resistance or resilience to cope with stress via behavioral control.