A Social Psychological Model for Predicting Sexual Harassment

Authors

  • John B. Pryor,

    Corresponding author
    1. Illinois State University
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      JOHN B. PRYOR is a professor in the Psychology Department at Illinois State University. Trained as a social psychologist at Princeton University, Pryor is an active researcher and consultant on sexual harassment issues. He has worked for the U.S. Department of Defense as a Faculty Research Associate and a Social Science Analyst in studying sexual harassment in the military and federal government. He was a consultant for the American Psychological Association Amicus Brief submitted to the U.S. Supreme Court in the sexual harassment case of Harris v. Forklift Systems.

  • Janet L. Giedd,

    1. Illinois State University
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      JANET L. GIEDD holds a master's degree in clinical psychology from Illinois State University. She currently is working as a therapist in Dallas, Texas.

  • Karen B. Williams

    1. Illinois State University
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      KAREN B. WILLIAMS is an assistant professor in the Psychology Department at Illinois State University. She received her Ph.D. in industrial/organizational psychology from Iowa State University. Her research, consulting, and academic interests include sexual harassment, assessment center technology, and impression formation in the selection interview.


Department of Psychology, Illinois State University, Normal, IL 61790–4620

Abstract

This article presents a Person X Situation model of sexual harassment. In the tradition of Lewin (1951), this model suggests that sexually harassing behavior may be predicted from an analysis of social situational and person factors. Sexual harassment is a behavior that some people do some of the time. The social norms in specific organizational settings may “permit” sexual harassment. Certain individuals may possess proclivities for sexual harassment. When individuals with a proclivity for sexual harassment are placed in social situations that permit or accept this sort of behavior, the behavior is most likely to occur. From a review of research relating social norms in organizational settings and sexual harassment incidence, women are found more likely to experience sexual harassment in workplaces where men perceive the social norms as permitting such behavior. Research on sexual harassment proclivities in men also is reviewed. A profile of men who are high in the likelihood to sexually harass (LSH) is developed through an examination of correlations between the LSH scale and (1) standard self-report inventories, (2) social cognitive measures, and (3) social behaviors measured in laboratory settings. Possible applications of the Person X Situation analysis to different forms of sexual harassment are discussed.

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