Psychology ETDs

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Beliefs, values, and attitudes (BVAs) are central to a persons identity and worldview but can be refined and influenced through the individual's surrounding environment and experience. The academic setting is one environment that impacts BVAs. This study examined if university students' BVAs are influenced over a semester by students' attributes, their professor, and the classroom context by testing three main hypotheses: 1) students demonstrate BVA change over time while professors' BVAs remain relatively stable over time; 2) students' attributes influence BVA change; and 3) students, especially those who have a positive experience in the class, assimilate to their professor's BVAs. In a sample of 19 classrooms, 14 professors, and 413 students, it was found that students' BVAs did change over time, both for values-bases classes and for non-values based classes. Students' attributes, specifically their initial commitment to values and religious commitment, were predictive of BVA change with those more committed to values reporting less BVA change over the semester. Students were found to assimilate their values to their professor's values. This was influenced by class type (values versus on values based) and students' belief in their professor's ability to teach. The impact of religiosity was the most consistent and robust finding in this study. The magnitude and direction of change in students' BVAs were influenced by their professor's level of religiosity. Students with more religious professors tended to increase their religious commitment and endorsement of instrumental values overall, whereas students with less religious professors tended to decrease their religious commitment and endorsement of instrumental values overall. This indicates that the secular, public university context is able to influence students' BVAs specifically through the course material and class format. More importantly, professors are in a position of authority and, therefore, can induce students to adopt their personal values. The benefits and concerns of value assimilation are discussed.

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First Committee Member (Chair)

Goldsmith, Timothy

Second Committee Member

Smith, Bruce

Third Committee Member

Parkes, Jay




Values--Psychological aspects, Social influence, Adaptability (Psychology), College students--Attitudes, Values--Religious aspects.

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