The current study conceptualized observer reactions to uncivil behavior towards women as an ethical behavior and examined three factors (target reaction, actor motive, and actor-target relationship) that influence these reactions. Two vignette studies with women and men undergraduate and graduate students in western Switzerland were conducted. Study 1 (N = 148) was a written vignette study that assessed how the reaction of female targets to incivility and the motives of actors influenced observer reactions. Results showed that a female target’s reaction influenced observers’ evaluations of the harm caused by an uncivil incident, and that an actor’s motive affected observers’ assessments of the necessity to intervene. Study 2 (N = 81) was a video vignette study that assessed the effects of the reactions by female targets to incivility and the relationship between the target and the actor on observer reactions. We found that female targets’ reactions influenced observers’ evaluations of harm and the perceived necessity to intervene. Furthermore, the effect of a female target’s reaction on observers’ evaluations of harm was moderated by the relationship between the actor and the target: a female target who laughed at the uncivil behavior was perceived as less harmed, when she and the actor had a personal relationship than when they had a professional relationship. When the female target reacted hurt or neutrally, actor-target relationship did not affect observers’ evaluations of harm. We conclude by discussing the implications of our findings for theory and practice.
Sex Roles – Springer Journals
Published: Apr 22, 2014
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