Date of Award


Degree Name

Doctor of Philosophy



First Advisor

Dr. Amy E. Naugle

Second Advisor

Dr. Scott T. Gayner

Third Advisor

Dr. Amy Damashek

Fourth Advisor

Dr. Jessica Rodriguez


Means-ends problem-solving, ecological momentary assessment, social problem-solving, emotion regulation, state-anxiety


The present study recruited a sample of undergraduate college students and examined the extent to which three measures of social problem-solving measured the construct of social problem-solving. A self-report measure (i.e., Social Problem-Solving Inventory-Revised Long), analogue task (i.e., the Means-Ends Problem-Solving task), and ecological momentary assessment (i.e., a diary card on real-life events) were compared. It was hypothesized that the three measures would assess different aspects of social problem-solving. The analogue task would theoretically be a measure of ability to generate solutions to a problem, the diary card would theoretically measure implementation of solutions in real-life, and the self-report measure would represent a global score. Overall, the results were contradictory. Non-significant bivariate correlations between these three measures indicated that they are generally not indexing the same processes. That is, scores on one measure did not predict scores on the other measures. There was one exception in that the use of relevant means to solve a social problem on the analogue task moderately predicted use of relevant means used on the diary card. Contradictory to the correlational results, paired-sample t-tests were conducted to further examine the degree that the analogue task and diary cards index the same processes, and the results indicated that performance on the tasks were generally similar. There were no statistically significant differences between performance on the analogue task and the diary cards in terms of average effectiveness of strategies and irrelevant strategies used to solve problems. Thus, participants were performing similarly across these two measures. However, there was a significant difference between average number of relevant means used to solve a problem between the two tasks. Individuals used fewer relevant means to solve problems in real-life than they did when solving the hypothetical problems on the analogue task. This indicates that participants performed differently across the two tasks in terms of relevant means. While use of relevant means on the analogue task predicted the use of relevant means on the diary cards, participants used more relevant means on the analogue task than the diary card task.

Additional secondary hypotheses were conducted to explore the role of state-anxiety and emotion regulation on social problem-solving skills as measured by the self-report measure of emotion regulation as well as the diary card task. It was hypothesized that a moderate amount of state-anxiety would be associated with the highest performance on the diary card task in terms of effectiveness compared to higher or lower levels of state-anxiety. It was also hypothesized that individuals with high state-anxiety while solving an interpersonal problem would be effective problem-solvers if they also were also skilled at regulating their emotions. Results of these hypotheses were non-significant. However, the sample size was insufficient as determined by an a priori power analysis. Overall the results of this study may provide future researchers with information to help guide their decision-making when selecting measures of social problem-solving.

Access Setting

Dissertation-Open Access