Date of Completion


Embargo Period



territoriality; home advantage; situated cognition; performance

Major Advisor

Kerry L. Marsh

Associate Advisor

Felicia Pratto

Associate Advisor

Tehran Davis

Field of Study



Doctor of Philosophy

Open Access

Open Access


The creation and maintenance of physical territories are behaviors common to many species, including humans. One of the most well-documented outcomes associated with territories is the phenomenon of home advantage, the tendency for residents to prevail disproportionally over intruders during competition. Previous attempts to explain this effect have focused largely on a defense framework: residents, in response to an intruder, experience dominance motivation, which leads to more aggressive behavior. In the current work, I draw on ecological theorizing to develop an alternative account, arguing that differences in perceptual activity necessary for adaptive functioning produces distinct performance outcomes for hosts, relative to visitors. Across four experiments, this proposal is contrasted with the defense account using multiple types of territories (e.g., lab settings, computerized scenes, dormitories) and multiple types of outcomes (e.g., visuospatial ability, visual search, persistence). In Experiment 1, I evaluate a procedure for inducing territoriality after a brief period of time in the laboratory. In Experiment 2, I employ this procedure to evaluate performance on a block design task, measuring visuospatial ability and perspective taking. In Experiment 3, I assess visual search ability across a range of interior scenes designed to simulate resident and visitor status. Finally, in Experiment 4, I employ an ego-depletion paradigm in participants’ dorm rooms and find that residents exhibit greater self-regulatory strength following a depleting task. Taken together, these studies represent initial steps towards moving the study of territorial behavior away from a preoccupation with competitive defense to a broader understanding of the resident-territory relationship.