Date of Award

Summer 8-2022

Level of Access Assigned by Author

Open-Access Thesis



Degree Name

Doctor of Philosophy (PhD)




Shannon McCoy

Second Committee Member

Jin X Goh

Third Committee Member

Emily Haigh

Additional Committee Members

Jordan LaBouff

Mollie Ruben


This dissertation includes three experimental studies investigating how confronting sexism impacts college-aged women. In Studies 1 and 2, we investigated how confronting effectively versus ineffectively influenced women’s imagined (Study 1) and actual (Study 2) psychological wellbeing. In Study 3, we investigated how imagining the costs and benefits of confronting sexual harassment impacted women’s confrontational behavior and negative affect. All three studies supported the conclusion that an effective confrontation is a goal for most confronters (Study 3) and whether or not a confrontation is effective influences women’s imagined (Study 1) and actual (Study 2) psychological wellbeing. Beyond this, all three studies suggested that changing a perpetrator’s sexist behaviors may be more influential for women’s psychological wellbeing after confronting sexism than changing a perpetrator’s sexist attitudes.

Overall, this dissertation contributed to a growing literature that centers the voice of targets of prejudice and confronters when investigating the outcomes of a confrontation of prejudice. Sexism negatively impacts women’s psychological wellbeing as well as their mental and physical health. Confrontation has been suggested as a potential coping strategy for women after a sexist event (Foster, 2013; Gervais et al., 2010; Hyers, 2007; Noh & Kaspar, 2003; Sanchez et al., 2016). We supported the importance of confrontation as a coping strategy and investigated confrontation effectiveness as a factor that influences when confronting benefits women’s psychological wellbeing after sexism. In future research, we will seek to clarify the specific impacts of changing a sexist perpetrator’s behaviors relative to their attitudes for women’s psychological wellbeing. By uncovering the impacts of behavior versus attitude change, researchers and policy makers can better understand the potential implications that promoting change in prejudiced behaviors versus attitudes has for the stigmatized groups that are affected by the prejudice.