Women's Cognitive, Affective, and Physiological Reactions to a Male Coworker's Sexist Behavior1


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    We would like to thank Sandra Goldsmith, Jeannie Concha, Oscar Herrera, and Cristina Bejarano for their assistance in data collection and data coding.

Correspondence concerning this article should be addressed to Kimberly T. Schneider, Department of Psychology, 412 De Garmo Hall, Illinois State University, Normal, IL 61790. e-mail: ktschne@ilstu.edu


Empirical research has documented the attitudinal and behavioral consequences of sexual harassment, but has not examined the physiological consequences. In the present study, we monitored women's autonomic physiological activity while they performed a word-association task with a male confederate who was either harassing, egalitarian, or submissive. Subsequently, we examined the women's cognitive, affective, and physiological reactions as they prepared and delivered a speech to the same confederate. Results indicate that harassment led to greater cardiovascular reactivity during the word-association task and to greater cognitive, negative affective, and cardiovascular reactions during the subsequent speech compared with other conditions. Subgroups of harassed women who confronted their coworker, or who blamed themselves for his behavior, also exhibited greater cardiovascular reactivity during both tasks compared to women who did not use these coping responses. We integrate our laboratory results with those obtained in field settings.