Doctor of Philosophy (PhD)


Communication Studies

Document Type



This dissertation extends the work of Signal Detection Theory (SDT) (Green & Swets, 1966; Swets, 1964) in the social sciences by applying it to romantic relationships, specifically initial romantic encounters (i.e. formal or informal first few dates, or random, chance encounters). The term relational red flag is put forth to describe the detection of signals in initial romantic encounters that may be perceived as any undesirable quality, which can be a characteristic, behavior, state, or trait that a person would not want in a potential romantic partner. These undesirable qualities can be costly to a healthy, stable relationship because they conflict with the individual’s own expectations, similarities, and compatibilities. The significant findings of this dissertation are derived from a two-study, mixed methods approach. The results from Study 1 led to the formation of a relational red flag typology, comprised of the nine main types and 23 subtypes of relational red flags, which also included the identification of the most severe relational red flags. Gender differences were also discovered. Study 2 built off the foundation provided by Study 1, revealing that relational red flags change across young adulthood, depending on an individual’s specific dating experiences and their own personal development. Findings also showed that an individual’s family and social network can play a vital role in the detection and processing of relational red flags. Additionally, a sequential identification and decision-making process was also discovered, which explains how individuals detect, label, and then handle relational red flags. Lastly, the best and worst approaches to handling relational red flags was also identified. Discussions, limitations, and future research are provided for both studies.



Document Availability at the Time of Submission

Secure the entire work for patent and/or proprietary purposes for a period of one year. Student has submitted appropriate documentation which states: During this period the copyright owner also agrees not to exercise her/his ownership rights, including public use in works, without prior authorization from LSU. At the end of the one year period, either we or LSU may request an automatic extension for one additional year. At the end of the one year secure period (or its extension, if such is requested), the work will be released for access worldwide.

Committee Chair

Honeycutt, James



Included in

Communication Commons