Doctoral Dissertations

Date of Award


Degree Type


Degree Name

Doctor of Philosophy



Major Professor

Lowell Gaertner

Committee Members

Garriy Shteynberg, Michael Kotowski, Michael Olson


Dual-process models of attitudes distinguish between implicit and explicit processes in which the valence (i.e., positivity or negativity) of a stimulus influences judgments and behavior toward the stimulus. Developing parallel to the dual-process literature has been a threat detection literature suggesting that the mind is preferentially attuned to threats to immediate bodily harm. That literature reveals early privileged responses (e.g., shorter latency of detection, stronger reflexive reactions, and faster and stronger physiological responses) to threatening stimuli relative to negative, neutral, and positive stimuli. By integrating those literatures, I develop the Dual Implicit Process Model that postulates two functionally distinct and serially linked automatic processes in which an implicit threat process precedes (and potentially influences) an implicit valence process (positive vs. negative) which precedes (and potentially influences) explicit processes. In what follows, I review existing dual-process models of evaluation and a threat detection literature that developed parallel to (but in isolation of) the former. I then consider weaknesses of dual-process approach given the threat literature, but also limitations in the threat literature that preclude making strong claims about unique threat processing. I then describe three studies that overcome those limitations and introduce the Dual Implicit Process Model (DIPM), which integrates key aspects of both literatures. I subsequently offer two studies that apply the DIPM’s underlying dynamics to explore the basic mechanisms of implicit social cognition that often lead to prejudice. Finally, I close by discussing how the DIP may apply to certain other psychological phenomenon and discuss some open conceptual questions about the model.


Much of the Introduction section was previously published in March, D., Gaertner, L., & Olson M.A. (2018). On the prioritized processing of threat in a dual implicit process model of evaluation. Psychological Inquiry, 29, 1-13.

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