Sexism, Harassment, & Attraction: Studying the Effects of Various Factors on Workplace Discrimination

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Florida Southern College
Much of the previously conducted research puts a focus on the effects of sexual harassment on the target of sexual harassment as a result of the harassment itself, or on the effects of the perceptions of the accused individual. This study aims to assess how making an accusation affects how one’s co-workers perceive the accuser. A study by Dunn and Cody (2000) hinted that a negative reputation can follow the accusation of sexual harassment, so it has been predicted that the presence of a sexual harassment accusation will lead to a lower score on the dependent variables of trustworthiness, likeability, promotability, and competence when it comes to the perceptions from the accuser’s coworkers on the accuser. This effect was predicted to be amplified when the accuser is a male, based on prior research indicating that males are generally perceived as more trustworthy, likeably, promotable, and competent within the workplace (McGloin & Denes, 2001; Sloan, 2012). The attractiveness of the focal character (who would be the accuser in the scenarios when there is an accusation made) was also predicted to influence the perceptions of the focal character’s coworkers; Golden, Johnson, and Lopez (2001) conducted research which suggested that more attractive sexual harassment targets are often believed more than their less attractive counterparts. Overall, the past literature points to an influence of the presence of a sexual harassment accusation, gender, and attractiveness each having an effect on how one is perceived by their co-workers, so this research investigates further how these three independent variables cross each other. Ultimately, there was no main effect of any of the independent variables found on any of the dependent variables, contradicting each of the proposed hypotheses. A variety of external factors may have influenced these results, leading to this inconsistency with previously published literature.
Honors Thesis Spring 2022
Sexual harassment, Sexism, Interpersonal attraction