Graduation Year


Document Type




Degree Name

Master of Arts (M.A.)

Degree Granting Department


Major Professor

Michael D. Coovert, Ph.D.

Committee Member

Chad Dubé, Ph.D.

Committee Member

Stephen Stark, Ph.D.


cyberpsychology, spear-phishing, phishing, personality, SDT, decision-making


Cyber-security is an ever-increasing problem in the 21st century. Though the majority of cyber-security breaches are a direct result of human error (Hu, Dinev, Hart, & Cooke, 2012), there is a dearth of research in psychology on the application of human decision-making for cyber-security compliance. Through an online inbox simulation, the present research examined the utility of a robust psychological model for decision-making, signal detection theory (SDT) for modeling decision-making in the context of receiving and responding to phishing and spear-phishing email scams. The influence of individual differences, specifically conscientiousness, on phishing email detection was also examined. The results indicate that SDT is useful for modeling and measuring cyber-compliance behavior in terms of responding to phishing emails. This finding supports the feasibility of using SDT to monitor training effectiveness for individuals’ resistance to social engineering in phishing email detection. There were no significant relationships between participants’ scores on conscientiousness and their phishing and spear-phishing email detection ability. Future research should explore predictors of cyber-compliance with regards to individuals’ phishing and spear-phishing susceptibility.

Included in

Psychology Commons