Attachment theory defines attachment as a context-specific behavioral system (Bowlby, 1969). Specifically, attachment behaviors and cognition become activated when an individual is in an environment that is anxiety provoking or stressful and they cease when that individual obtains relief from such situations. Self-report measures of adult attachment have largely ignored the context-specific requirement of activating the attachment behavioral system focusing instead on the belief that over time attachment representations are stable and enduring styles of relating inter-personally. However research findings in the adult attachment literature have found contextual effects on behavior that cannot be explained by attachment style alone (Green & Campbell, 2000, Mikulincer & Arad, 1999) and greater predictive power with measures that tap contextually relevant information over self-report measures that do not activate the attachment system (Bouthillier et al., 2002). The purpose of this study is to investigate the empirical advantages of using a self-report attachment questionnaire that is first primed with a vignette designed to activate the attachment system. Four hundred and fourteen adult college students were randomly assigned to one of three conditions and were asked to respond to a questionnaire. The three groups only differed on if they were exposed to an attachment-activating vignette and/or the placement of the vignette in the questionnaire materials. The questionnaire materials included measures of attachment, trust, perceived social support, loneliness, self-esteem, and demographic information. Data were gathered from self-report questionnaires that were completed and returned by the participants. Hypotheses suggesting empirical advantages of using a prime with a self-report attachment questionnaire were not supported. It is likely that the prime in this study did not activate the right hemisphere of the brain that has been implicated in processing attachment related information, and, thus, it did not activate the attachment system. This methodological issue has important implications for future attachment research as well as psychotherapy.

LLU Discipline





Graduate School

First Advisor

Janet L. Sonne

Second Advisor

Gloria Cowan

Third Advisor

John Flora-Tostado

Fourth Advisor

Kelly R. Morton

Fifth Advisor

Matt Riggs

Degree Name

Doctor of Philosophy (PhD)

Degree Level


Year Degree Awarded


Date (Title Page)




Library of Congress/MESH Subject Headings

Attachment behavior; Interpersonal relations; Psychoanalysis; Attachment behavior in children; Mother and infant.



Page Count

x; 93

Digital Format


Digital Publisher

Loma Linda University Libraries

Usage Rights

This title appears here courtesy of the author, who has granted Loma Linda University a limited, non-exclusive right to make this publication available to the public. The author retains all other copyrights.


Loma Linda University Electronic Theses and Dissertations

Collection Website



Loma Linda University. Del E. Webb Memorial Library. University Archives

Included in

Psychology Commons