Date of Award




Document Type

Master's Thesis

Degree Name

Master of Arts (MA)


Department of Psychology


Social/Personality Psychology

Content Description

1 online resource (iii, 56 pages) : illustrations.

Dissertation/Thesis Chair

Anna Reiman

Committee Members

Ronald Friedman


gender identity, organizational climate, sexual harassment, sexual orientation, Sexual harassment of women, Lesbians, Transgender women, Cisgender people, Sex discrimination in employment, Social perception

Subject Categories

Experimental Analysis of Behavior | Social Psychology


Third-party observers’ opinions affect how organizations handle sexual harassment. Prior research has focused on perceptions of sexual harassment targeting straight cisgender women. We examined how targets’ sexual orientation and gender identity impact these perceptions. In three preregistered studies, straight cisgender participants imagined a coworker confided that a male colleague had sexually harassed her. The target was a transgender woman, a lesbian woman, or a woman whose sexual orientation and gender identity were unspecified. In Study 1 (N=428), participants reported believing that sexual harassment targeting lesbians and women with unspecified identities was most likely motivated by attraction and power, whereas sexual harassment targeting transgender women was seen as most likely motivated by power and prejudice. Despite these differences in perceived motivation, in Study 2 (N=421) perceptions of appropriate consequences for the perpetrator did not vary based on the target’s identity. Study 3 (N=473) demonstrated that the specific behavior of which sexual harassment is assumed to consist differs based on the target’s identity. Whereas women with unspecified identities and lesbians were assumed to face stereotypical attraction-based harassment, transgender women were assumed to face gender harassment. Stereotypes about sexual harassment can bias third-party assumptions, invalidating experiences that do not match pervasive stereotypes.assumed to take the form of gender harassment. Differential third-party assumptions may have powerful effects on organizational climate.