Defense Date


Graduation Date

Fall 12-15-2023


Immediate Access

Submission Type


Degree Name



Clinical Psychology


McAnulty College and Graduate School of Liberal Arts

Committee Chair

Alexander Kranjec

Committee Member

Melissa Kalarchian

Committee Member

James Schreiber


cynicism, cynical attitudes, functional cynicism, trait cynicism, psychological construct, mixed methods, attitudes scale, psychometrics, psychological assessment


Trait cynicism, or “cynical hostility” as measured by the Minnesota Multiphasic Personality Inventory’s Cook-Medley Scale, is defined and studied as characteristics associated with psychopathology, interpersonal conflict, and negative health outcomes including heart disease and cognitive decline. Likewise, “organizational cynicism” is operationalized in industrial/organizational psychology for the purpose of describing and identifying an undesirable employee type in the workplace. This research proposes an alternative assessment. It reconnects cynicism with its roots in ancient philosophy by asking if cynical attitudes, despite their negative valence ascribed in the modern literature and conventional opinion, may serve a practical purpose. This study of Functional Cynicism uses exploratory sequential mixed methods to first gather the definitions and experiences of cynical attitudes from a purposive sample of individuals who identified a familiarity with the topic (n = 13). Qualitative data were translated into quantifiable components in order to build the Attitudes About Cynicism Scale. After administration to a representative sample (n = 308), evaluation of the scale’s functionality was evaluated using descriptive and inferential statistical methods of validity and reliability. Further, the dimensionality of the latent constructs was interpreted using Exploratory Factor Analysis. Findings in this study demonstrated that a majority of the participants in this representative population sample identified their cynicism as practical. These findings present evidence that Functional Cynicism is both a qualitatively meaningful and externally valid construct. Given the absence of empirical studies on cynicism’s adaptive potential, this research provides a rationale for future inquiries in the areas of personality and clinical subfields about the functional role cynical attitudes.