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Psychology, Public Policy, and Law





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Previous research has examined the impact of the law on decisions made about social sexual interactions in the workplace in the context of a variety of individual difference variables including gender of the observer and sexist attitudes, as well as situational factors including legal standard and prior exposure to aggressive and submissive complainants. The current study continued this line of inquiry by testing whether hostile or benevolent sexist attitudes behaved differently under manipulated exposure to aggressive and submissive complainants. Full-time workers watched 1 videotape in which aggressive, submissive, or neutral (i.e., businesslike) women complained that male coworkers sexually harassed them; then, participants viewed a second complainant who always acted in a neutral behavioral tone. In the first case, participants high in hostile sexism who took a reasonable person perspective (but not those with a reasonable woman point of view) and all men who viewed an aggressive complainant found less evidence of harassment. With the second set of allegations, female workers who were exposed to a submissive complainant in the first case found less evidence of harassment against the neutral complainant, suggesting that exposure to a submissive complainant triggered some type of victim blaming in female workers. Policy and training implications are discussed.


© 2010 American Psychological Association.

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