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Social Cognitions that Normalise Sexual Harassment of Women at Work: The Role of Moral Disengagement

Page, Thomas Edward (2015) Social Cognitions that Normalise Sexual Harassment of Women at Work: The Role of Moral Disengagement. Doctor of Philosophy (PhD) thesis, University of Kent,. (Access to this publication is currently restricted. You may be able to access a copy if URLs are provided)

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Abstract

Sexual harassment against women represents aggressive behaviour that is often enacted instrumentally, in response to a threatened sense of masculinity and male identity (cf. Maass & Cadinu, 2006). To date, however, empirical and theoretical attention to the social-cognitive processes that regulate workplace harassment is scant. Drawing on Social Cognitive Theory (Bandura, 1986), the current thesis utilises the theoretical concept of moral disengagement in order to address this important gap in the literature. According to Bandura (1990, 1999), moral standards and self-sanctions (i.e., negative emotions of guilt or shame) can be selectively deactivated through various psychosocial mechanisms. The use of these moral disengagement strategies enables a person to violate their moral principles, and perpetrate injurious behaviour without incurring self-censure. This thesis investigates the general hypothesis that moral disengagement facilitates and perpetuates workplace sexual harassment. A new conceptual framework is presented, elucidating the self-regulatory role of moral disengagement mechanisms in sexual harassment perpetration at work. Eight empirical studies are reported in this thesis. Studies 1 to 3 present the development and preliminary validation of the Moral Disengagement in Sexual Harassment Scale (MDiSH); a self-report measure of moral disengagement in the context of hostile work environment harassment. These studies document the excellent psychometric properties of this new scale. The MDiSH exhibited positive correlations with sexual harassment myth acceptance, male gender identification, and hostile sexism. In Study 3, participants were exposed to a fictitious case of hostile work environment harassment. The MDiSH attenuated moral judgment, negative emotions (guilt, shame, and anger), sympathy, and endorsement of prosocial behavioural intentions (support for restitution) associated with the harassment case. Conversely, the MDiSH increased positive affect (happiness) about the harassment, endorsement of avoidant behavioural intentions, and attribution of blame to the female complainant. Using the amalgamated samples of Studies 1 and 2, the MDiSH was winnowed down to create a short form of the scale (MDiSH-S). The analyses reported in Chapter 3 attest to the strong psychometric properties of this measure. Study 4 explores the influence of social identification on the relationship between moral disengagement and judgments of hostile work environment harassment. U.S. participants were presented with a harassment case in which the perpetrators were described as being either in-group or out-group members. Moral disengagement (as measured using the MDiSH) neutralised judgments of the harassing behaviour. However, participants were not more inclined to justify and positively re-appraise harassment that was committed by in-group perpetrators. Study 5 reveals that moral disengagement leads people to make more favourable judgments about the perpetrators of hostile work environment harassment. The neutralising effects of moral disengagement on judgments of the harassing conduct were partially mediated by a positive evaluation of the harassers (but not social identification with them). The final three studies (Studies 6, 7, and 8) investigate the role of moral disengagement in accounting for men’s self-reported proclivity to commit quid pro quo harassment and hostile work environment harassment. These studies examine the causal pathway between moral disengagement and harassment proclivity, and the psychological mechanisms (emotions and moral judgment) that underlie this relationship. Taken together, the results suggest that moral disengagement mechanisms are important social cognitions that people use to deny, downplay, and justify workplace sexual harassment. The findings of this thesis also provide preliminary support for the notion that moral disengagement is a self-regulatory process in sexual harassment perpetration at work (cf. Page & Pina, 2015). The thesis concludes with a discussion of theoretical implications of the findings, methodological limitations, practical implications, and suggestions of future research avenues.

Item Type: Thesis (Doctor of Philosophy (PhD))
Thesis advisor: Pina, Afroditi
Thesis advisor: Roger, Gina-Sorolla
Uncontrolled keywords: Sexual harassment social cognition moral disengagement measure judgments sexual harassment proclivity
Subjects: B Philosophy. Psychology. Religion
B Philosophy. Psychology. Religion > BF Psychology
Divisions: Faculties > Social Sciences > School of Psychology
Depositing User: Users 1 not found.
Date Deposited: 08 Feb 2016 16:00 UTC
Last Modified: 06 Feb 2020 04:13 UTC
Resource URI: https://kar.kent.ac.uk/id/eprint/54047 (The current URI for this page, for reference purposes)
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