Attributions of Responsibility in Cases of Sexual Harassment: The Person and the Situation1


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    The author thanks Ellen Cohn for her guidance; Bill Peterson and Rebecca Warner for their input on the original project; and Rebecca Regeth, Kathleen Bauman, Glenn Geher, and Rouba Youssef for their support and advice on earlier drafts of this paper.

Correspondence concerning this article should be addressed to Kimberly Eretzian Smirles, Psychology Department, Emmanuel College, 400 The Fenway, Boston, MA 02115. E-mail: smirles@emmanuel.ed.


When observers learn about a case of sexual harassment, it is common for them to assign responsibility to the victim and perpetrator. However, attributions of responsibility are complex judgments often based on variables beyond the case's details (e.g., attitudes). The present study examined how victim response, victim and perpetrator gender, and participant gender and gender-role attitudes influenced participants' attributions. Victim and perpetrator responsibility were measured before and after participants knew the victim's reaction in order to examine whether new information would alter participants' attributions. Consistent with previous research, gender differences were found for attributions and attitudes. Victim and perpetrator gender did not affect attributions. However, biases appeared in open-ended responses. Finally, only females made distinctions of responsibility across victim reaction condition.