Graduation Year


Document Type




Degree Name

Doctor of Philosophy (Ph.D.)

Degree Granting Department


Major Professor

Michael D. Coovert, Ph.D.

Committee Member

Walter C. Borman, Ph.D.

Committee Member

Randy Borum, Ph.D.

Committee Member

Paul E. Spector, Ph.D.

Committee Member

Joseph A. Vandello, Ph.D.


Certifications, Personality, Problem Solving, Selection


The current study drew upon several theoretical frameworks of cybersecurity performance to evaluate distal and proximal individual attributes that may predict cyber performance in a variety of cybersecurity work roles. The proposed models in this study predicted that cognitive ability, personality (conscientiousness and openness to experience), and motivational factors like learning orientation would work through proximal attributes like technical knowledge, communication, and problem solving to influence performance. Hypotheses were tested using 139 employee responses to predictor variables and performance ratings from their supervisors across two industries and several cybersecurity work roles. Correlational analyses and path models supported that several individual attributes predicted task performance, including error detection (a cognitive ability dimension), conscientiousness, learning orientation, and problem solving skill. Results also supported the mediating effects of problem solving, in that cognitive ability, personality, and motivation work through problem solving to influence task performance. Interestingly, computer and cyber related certifications were not related to predictors or performance outcomes of interest. Considering the relative strength of all the effects in this study, persistent problem solving, or the combination of learning orientation and problem solving, seems to be a key factor in successful task performance for cybersecurity personnel. Overall, the study highlights that psychosocial attributes are critical for understanding and predicting cybersecurity performance. Future research should continue to evaluate how individual characteristics relate to success in order to inform organizational selection, placement, and training practices across the cyber domain.