Year of Award


Document Type


Degree Type

Doctor of Philosophy (PhD)

Degree Name

Experimental Psychology

Department or School/College

Department of Psychology

Committee Chair

Lucian Gideon Conway

Commitee Members

Allen Szalda-Petree, Duncan Campbell, Bryan Cochran, Christopher Muste




University of Montana


Despite its prevalence in popular culture, little research has specifically investigated the topic of enemyship and how it affects our lives. This research proposes to fill that gap by focusing on the effects involved with claiming to have an enemy. Specifically, this research introduces a theory of "optimal enemyship" which suggests that (1) there are both positive and negative psychological consequences for having an enemy, and (2) there are specific circumstances that maximize the positive benefits of enemyship. The focus of this research is to assess when "optimal enemyship" occurs by looking at characteristics of both the enemyship relationship and the individual. I propose that when there is a mismatch between the target domain of the enemy in question and the individualistic orientation of the perceiver (i.e. an individualist thinking about a group enemy, or a collectivist thinking about an individual enemy), we are more likely to optimize the positive effects from an enemyship relationship and sidestep the negative effects. To test this theory, I measured the individualism/collectivism of participants and primed them with either a group enemy, an individual enemy, or no enemy. Results provided mixed support for the theory: the predicted interaction between perceiver characteristics and enemy domain did not emerge for more chronically-stable measurements (life satisfaction and self-esteem), but did emerge - in a direction consistent with the theory - for more malleable psychological states (positive affect and reactance). Implications of these findings are discussed.



© Copyright 2013 Laura Janelle Gornick