Date of Award

12-1-2014

Degree Name

Doctor of Philosophy

Department

Psychology

First Advisor

Etcheverry, Paul

Second Advisor

Stockdale, Margaret

Abstract

This study examined criticisms in the media that women and feminists are ultra-sensitive to sexual harassment, making false accusations that may ruin an accused man's career by empirically examining gender and feminist identity in relation to SH judgments for scenarios that varied by evidence strength. This study also examined whether those endorsing radically conservative views, specifically Right Wing Authoritarianism (RWA), are particularly insensitive to sexual harassment, denying that it exists even when evidence is strong. We hypothesized that perceiver gender, attitudes toward the feminist movement, stages of feminist identity, and RWA attitudes would impact perceptions of sexual harassment severity, accuser guilt, perceptions of future job consequences for the accused perpetrator, and perceptions of false accusations, and that strength of evidence would moderate these relationships. A sample of 961 adults was recruited from Amazon's MTurk to complete an online vignette study. Participants were assigned to a scenario condition based on a 2 (Hostile Work Environment vs. Unwanted Sexual Attention scenario) * 2 (Strength of Evidence: Strong vs. Weak) factorial design. Contrary to the popular belief that feminists are ultra-sensitive, findings indicated that women endorsing feminist beliefs were more cautious than others to judge a scenario as sexually harassing when evidence was weak. Those endorsing RWA beliefs, however, were more likely than others to claim a woman was making a false accusation of unwanted sexual attention sexual harassment regardless of strength of evidence.

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