Home » The Psychology of Sexual Harassment Shawn Meghan

The Psychology of Sexual Harassment Shawn Meghan

The Generalist’s Corner
The Psychology of Sexual Harassment
Shawn Meghan Burn1
Sexual harassment (SH) occurs when people are targets of unwanted sexual comments, sexual gestures, or sexual actions because
of their actual or perceived gender, gender expression, or sexual orientation. Due to its frequency and harmful effects on people
and organizations, and because it is often a symptom of social inequalities, SH is of concern to psychologists. Using psychological
theory and research as well as intersectional and contextual lenses, this article describes how SH is varied in its forms, targets, and
origins. I explore explanations for SH with a focus on sociocultural gender and power perspectives. I also employ a person-bysituation perspective to show how contextual factors interact with individual factors to influence incidence. Because reducing SH
is important for safe and inclusive schools, organizations, and public settings, I identify possible solutions to this common social
problem. Finally, I discuss how and why teaching about the psychology of SH can promote positive individual, group, organizational, and social change. In sum, I illustrate interesting and important psychological concepts and methods and show how psychology can be used to understand and treat social problems and inequalities.
sexual harassment, gender and sexual harassment, power and sexual harassment, intersectionality and sexual harassment, solutions to sexual harassment
Sexual harassment (SH) occurs when people are targets of
unwanted sexual comments, gestures, or actions because of
their actual or perceived gender, gender expression, or sexual
orientation. Although workplace SH has received the most
attention from psychology researchers, SH also occurs on public transportation and in other public places, in educational and
athletic settings, in homes, at social gatherings, and in online
groups. It may be conveyed in many ways including face-toface interactions; via phone, text, social media, or e-mail;
through the display of materials or objects; or by tampering
with personal territories and belongings.
Why SH Matters
From a psychological perspective, SH matters because it frequently causes pain and suffering. Victims (targets) perceive
SH as annoying, offensive, upsetting, humiliating, intimidating, embarrassing, stressful, and frightening (Fitzgerald, Swan,
& Magley, 1997; Langer, 2017). When SH diminishes, dehumanizes, and disempowers its targets, emotional and physical
stress and stress-related mental and physical illnesses, including post-traumatic stress disorder, may result (Buchanan, Settles, Wu, & Hayashino, 2018; Chan, Lam, Chow, & Cheung,
2008; Friborg et al., 2017; Larsen & Fitzgerald, 2011; Nielson
& Einarsen, 2012; Willness, Steel, & Lee, 2007). SH is also a
risk factor for weight/shape concerns, negative body image,
and disordered eating (Buchanan, Bluestein, Nappa, Woods,
& Depatie, 2013) and can reduce targets’ sense of safety (Donnelly & Calogero, 2018).
SH can also deliberately or unintentionally interfere with
performance and career aspirations by creating an intimidating,
hostile, abusive, or offensive environment that erodes targets’
confidence and makes it harder to achieve (Jacobson & Eaton,
2018; Jagsi et al., 2016; McLaughlin, Ugger, & Blackston,
2017). For example, in American middle and high school students, SH adversely affects school engagement and academic
achievement (Gruber & Fineran, 2016). When SH leads targets
to leave jobs, it may negatively affect career progression due to
the loss of seniority and organization-specific work skills,
difficult-to-explain gaps in employment, and trouble obtaining
references from managers and coworkers (McLaughlin et al.,
2017). As a counterproductive work behavior, SH has legal and
financial organizational costs and may also negatively impact
company and industry reputations. Other organizational
impacts include job and career dissatisfaction, reduced organizational commitment, increased absenteeism, job turnover, job
burnout, requests for transfers, and decreases in work motivation and productivity (Chan et al., 2008; Holland & Cortina,
2016; Rabelo & Cortina, 2014; Sojo, Wood, & Genat, 2016;
Willness et al., 2007).
1 Department of Psychology and Child Development, California Polytechnic
State University, San Luis Obispo, CA, USA
Corresponding Author:
Shawn Meghan Burn, Department of Psychology and Child Development,
California Polytechnic State University, San Luis Obispo, CA 93407, USA.
Email: [email protected]
Teaching of Psychology
2019, Vol. 46(1) 96-103
ª The Author(s) 2018
Article reuse guidelines:
DOI: 10.1177/0098628318816183
Concern about SH is consistent with the social justice goals
of psychology, as it is often a symptom and a cause of gender
and other social inequalities (McLaughlin et al., 2017). SH
sometimes has sexist, classist, heterosexist, transphobic, and
racist elements. Ethnic minorities and migrants are at increased
risk for a combination of racial and SH and SH infused by
racial stereotypes (Buchanan & Fitzgerald, 2008; Clancy, Lee,
Rodgers, & Richey, 2017). Likewise, the SH experienced by
LGBT people is frequently infused with heterosexism and
transphobia (Grant, Mottet, & Tanis, 2011; Hill & Silva,
2005; Kearl, 2014). When SH reflects multiple oppressions and
minority statuses or adds to them so that multiple forms of
harassment occur, psychological distress may increase (Buchanan, Settles, & Woods, 2008; Buchanan et al., 2018;
Szymanski & Henrichs-Beck, 2014).
Sexually Harassing Behaviors: The Tripartite
Model of SH
The widely accepted tripartite model of SH (Fitzgerald et al.,
1997) identifies three behavioral dimensions: gender harassment, unwanted sexual attention, and sexual coercion.1 These
three subtypes show stability across time, culture, and occupational sector (Holland & Cortina, 2016).
Gender harassment refers to crude sexual verbal and nonverbal behaviors conveying insulting, hostile, and degrading
attitudes about one’s gender, gender identity, or sexual orientation. Obscene sexual gestures, flashing, displaying sexual
images or objects at work, and e-mailing or texting sexual
images to a peer or coworker are all forms of gender harassment. Sexist or heterosexist language, jokes, or comments also
fall under this heading.
Unwanted sexual attention includes making suggestive or
positive and negative comments about a person’s body, leering
and catcalling, spreading sexual rumors about a person, and
electronically sharing sexualized images of a person.
Unwanted sexual touching, such as grabbing, pinching, groping, intentionally brushing up against another in a sexual way,
is also considered unwanted sexual attention. This is also true
of blocking another’s path or following a person in a sexual
way; unsolicited, unwelcome, and unreciprocated sexual
advances such as repeated requests for a kiss, a date, or sex;
and attempted or completed rape.
Sexual coercion—known legally as quid pro quo SH—
refers to requiring sexual contact or sexual favors as a condition
of receiving rewards or benefits such as employment, a promotion, favorable work conditions, assistance, or a good performance evaluation or grade. Although sexual coercion appears
to be the most serious and least common form of SH, less
intense but more frequent forms of SH may create ongoing
stress and trauma detrimental to well-being (Sojo et al.,
2016; Thurston et al., 2017).
The Sexual Experiences Questionnaire (SEQ), developed by
Fitzgerald et al. (1988; Fitzgerald, Gelfand, & Drasgow, 1995)
and based on the tripartite model, is the instrument psychologists most commonly used to measure SH. Consisting of 20
items, the SEQ includes 5 gender harassment items, 7
unwanted sexual attention items, and 5 sexual coercion items.
Importantly, none of the items includes the word “sexual
harassment.” (One criterion item, “Have you ever been sexually harassed?,” appears after the other items.) Psychometrically validated by Fitzgerald, Gelfand, and Drasgow (1995),
the SEQ showed acceptable internal reliability, test–retest
reliability, and construct validity. But in practice, its psychometric properties are uncertain. Originally intended to measure
workplace SH, the SEQ is frequently modified for specific
settings and time frames; it is also used to measure newer SH
mediums such as cyber harassment. These modifications frequently occur without additional psychometric evaluation.
SH Prevalence
Prevalence estimates of SH vary depending on the sample,
setting, or industry sector and how it is measured. Nevertheless,
SH is believed to be common (McDonald, 2012). Studies that
provide a comprehensive list of sexually harassing behaviors
and that ask participants to note which behaviors they have
experienced typically find higher rates of SH than studies
including more general questions (Ilies, Hauserman, Schwochau, & Stibal, 2003; Sojo et al., 2016). For example, nationally representative samples using general questions (direct
queries) have found that 25% of American women report
experiencing workplace SH. The number rises to 40%, however, when respondents report on specific harassing behaviors.
In convenience samples, these numbers are 50% and 70%,
respectively (Feldblum & Lipnic, 2016). The use of different
time frames also explains some rate discrepancies (Espelage,
Hong, Rinehart, & Doshi, 2016).
SH rates also vary by gender. The majority of SH targets are
girls and women, and the majority of perpetrators are boys and
men (Espelage et al., 2016; Gruber & Fineran, 2016). To illustrate, a nationally representative American study using direct
query found that 65% of women and 25% of men had experienced street harassment (Kearl, 2014). A 2017 Pew Research
Center study employing direct query with a nationally representative American sample found that 22% of women and 7%
of men reported personally experiencing workplace SH (Parker
& Funk, 2017). Duggan (2017) also found that 21% of women
ages 18–29 reported being sexually harassed online, compared
to 9% of men in the same age-group. Hill and Kearl (2011) used
a list of SH behaviors with a representative sample of American
middle and high school students and found that 48% had experienced some form of SH; girls (52%) reported higher rates
than boys (40%). Notably, the SH of boys and men is most
often perpetrated by males who target other males deviating
from traditional heterosexual gender roles or who harass lower
status men to establish dominance in male groups (Fox & Tang,
2014; Gruber & Fineran, 2016; Holland, Rabelo, Gustafson,
Seabrook, & Cortina, 2016).
Minority status may also influence SH rates. Minorities may
experience higher rates of SH from majority group members
because minority group status denotes marginality and lack of
Burn 97
power, conditions associated with higher SH prevalence. Prejudice toward ethnic and sexual minorities may also occur in
the form of sexual aggression and harassment (Collins, 1990).
Unfortunately, sample sizes are usually too small to examine
group and intersectional differences in the experience of SH.
For example, LGBT persons generally experience much higher
rates of SH than heterosexuals (Grant et al., 2011; Hill & Silva,
2005; Kearl, 2014), but little is known about differences in SH
prevalence and how the experiences of different LGBT groups
compare (e.g., LGBT people of color, lesbians in comparison to
gay men, male-to-female transgender people in comparison to
female-to-male transgender people).
Explanations for Why SH Occurs
Evolutionary (biological) perspectives propose that males’ biological predisposition to mate and widely reproduce drives
their SH of females. SH is intended to signal males’ sexual
interest but is misunderstood by women uninterested in a sexual encounter (Diehl, Rees, & Bohner, 2018). Meanwhile,
males’ harassment of other males is intended to derogate competitors to reduce their perceived mate value (Bendixen &
Kennair, 2017). The evolutionary perspective lacks research
support and is conceptually problematic (Page & Pina, 2015).
For example, unwanted sexual attention may sometimes arise
out of sexual interest, but this is likely true of some women who
sexually harass. Also, the evolutionary perspective explains
unwanted sexual attention but overlooks other forms of SH
(like sexual coercion and gender harassment) and also men’s
harassment of gender-nonconforming men and women
(McLaughlin, Uggen, & Blackstone, 2012).
From a sociocultural gender perspective, SH is a consequence of gender role socialization processes that promote
male dominance, the sexual objectification of women (the
reduction of women to heterosexualized bodies), and the cultural approval of violence against women (Cleveland & McNamara, 1996; Galdi, Maas, & Cadinu, 2014). Men’s beliefs and
expectations about masculinity are powerful and consistent
predictors of sexual violence supporting beliefs and behaviors
(Locke & Mahalik, 2005). Hegemonic masculinity norms,
including power over women, dominance, disdain for homosexuals, and sexual conquest, may drive SH. The influence of
these norms intensifies in male groups where men may sexually harass to demonstrate their masculinity (Fox & Tang,
2017; Mikorski & Syzmanski, 2017; Quinn, 2002). The sociocultural perspective also suggests that SH is sometimes used
to police appropriate ways of “doing gender” by punishing
those who stray from traditional gender roles and norms. For
example, gender-nonconforming men and women are frequent SH targets (Leskinen, Rabelo, & Cortina, 2015;
McLaughlin et al., 2012).
Power perspectives are a type of sociocultural perspective
that see SH as a tactic for gaining or maintaining power or as
arising from a sense of entitlement felt by powerful people
(Cleveland & Kerst, 1993). Feminist psychology perspectives
root SH in traditional gender norms and roles and explain that
SH often arises from and reinforces the existing gender hierarchy where heterosexual men have more power and privilege
(Holland & Cortina, 2016). Because power and gender perspectives pervade the literature on SH, they are a focus here.
The vulnerable victim hypothesis suggests that people low in
sociocultural power and status (like women and racial and
sexual minorities) and those with low organizational power
(like those in precarious employment or low in an organizational hierarchy) are more susceptible to SH by those with
greater power (McLaughlin et al., 2012; Rospenda, Richman,
& Nawyn, 1998). The vulnerable victim hypothesis is one
explanation for why boys and men are more likely to be harassers and girls and women are more likely to be harassed.
Occupational gender role segregation and the glass ceiling
often give men greater organizational power (in organizations,
high-prestige, high-status positions are more likely to be occupied by men). Traditional gender roles also give males greater
sociocultural power relative to females such that males may
harass female peers and females with equal or greater formal
power than themselves (the latter is known as contrapower
SH). Organizational and societal tolerance of SH reflect male
power and privilege and mean that SH is minimized; perpetrators are excused and rarely punished; victims are often blamed;
victims hesitate to report; and complaints may be met with
indifference, stigmatization, or retaliation.
The power threat model proposes that by intimidating and
discouraging girls, women, and sexual minorities, SH assures
heterosexual male dominance; those who threaten heterosexual
male dominance and traditional hierarchies of power are more
likely to be targets of SH (Berndahl, 2007; Gruber & Fineran,
2016; MacKinnon, 1979; McLaughlin et al., 2012; Russell &
Oswald, 2016). For example, women in authority positions,
feminists (both female and male), sexual minorities, and
women in traditionally masculinized spaces and industries are
sometimes targets of SH by heterosexual male subordinates
and peers (Berdahl, 2007; Clancy et al., 2017; Holland & Cortina, 2013; Holland et al., 2016; Jagsi et al., 2016; Lonsway,
Paynich, & Hall, 2013; McLaughlin et al., 2012). SH is frequently used to discourage women from running for office and
reelection and to create obstacles to their effectiveness as legislators (Inter-Parliamentary Union, 2016). Men sometimes use
online SH to discourage women’s online discussion and multiplayer online gaming (Fox & Tang, 2017; Megarry, 2014).
From the perspective of social power theory (French &
Raven, 1959), sexual harassers often draw on several bases
of power. Based on their social or organizational position or
on social roles like client or customer, a person may have the
“right” to make demands of another; some harassers abuse this
“legitimate power” to get away with harassment or believe
their higher status gives them the right to sexually harass (Cleveland & Kerst, 1993; Popovich & Warren, 2010). For example, migrant women workers, hotel room attendants (maids),
women restaurant workers, and homecare and domestic workers experience high rates of SH from supervisors, peers, clients,
and customers (Kim, Va´squez, Torres, Nicola, & Karr, 2016;
Nguyen, 2016). Because the harasser is seen as having the right
98 Teaching of Psychology 46(1)
to make demands of the subordinate, the target may feel obligated to comply with the harassment (Popvich & Warren,
Some harassers have the power to provide desired rewards
(reward power) to targets or to punish them (coercive power)
and use that power to insure compliance from SH targets. In
quid pro quo harassment, for example, sexual contact is a condition for desired rewards. Servers or salespeople may put up
with SH because customers and clients have the power to
reward them with tips or sales. Coercive power also affects
targets’ resistance to SH. Most victims of SH respond passively
(e.g., avoid the perpetrator, laugh it off) because they expect
negative consequences such as retaliation or loss of status in a
group (Berdahl & Raver, 2011; Bowes-Sperry & O’LearyKelly, 2005). SH may also convey an implicit or explicit threat
of further harassment or assault (Donnelly & Calogero, 2018)
that serves as coercive power.
Although males are the most common SH perpetrators, men
vary in their proclivity to sexually harass. Many are disinclined
to sexually harass even when they are powerful or the context
supports or permits it. A person-by-situation perspective
explains these differences by noting that personal predisposing
factors combine with situational factors to determine whether
harassment occurs (Bargh, Raymond, Pryor, & Strack, 1995;
Pryor, LaVite, & Stoller, 1993). Situational factors include
organizational tolerance, male dominant cultures, sexually
objectifying environments, and masculine group norms where
harassment serves male bonding (Holland & Cortina, 2016;
Stillman, Yamawaki, Ridge, White, & Copley, 2009; Szymanski & Mikorski, 2016; Thomae & Pina, 2015). Personal
SH proclivity factors include hostile sexist attitudes and a
short-term mating orientation (Diehl, Rees, & Bohner, 2018),
acceptance of rape and SH myths, endorsement of traditional
masculine ideology, conformity to traditional masculine
norms, and low empathy (Diehl, Glaser, & Bohner, 2014; Fox
& Tang, 2017; Pryor, 1987). The “Dark Triad” personality
traits of narcissism, psychopathy, and Machiavellianism are
also associated with SH proclivity (Zeigler-Hill, Besser,
Morag, & Campbell, 2016).
Changing the organizational climates and contexts that allow
SH is essential for reducing SH. Adopting clear antiharassment policies and procedures is part of changing the
normative contexts that support SH. SH policies can serve as
a check on those inclined to sexually harass and can empower
victims with avenues for rectification. Organizations that
proactively develop, disseminate, and enforce SH policies and
procedures have the lowest rates of workplace SH (Holland &
Cortina, 2016). SH training can increase reporting, increase
knowledge of organizational policies and sensitivity to what
constitutes SH, and reduce victim blaming and the minimization of SH (Lonsway, Cortina, & Magley, 2008; Magley, Fitzgerald, Salisbury, Drasgow, & Zickar, 2013; Roehling &
Huang, 2018). Effective organizational SH training includes
education about SH behaviors, procedures for reporting, the
responsibilities of managers and supervisors, promoting
respect for people from all groups, and prohibitions against
retaliation (Holland & Cortina, 2016). To be effective, however, strong support from leaders and managers must accompany policies and training (Buchanan, Settles, Hall, &
O’Connor, 2014; Cheung Goldberg, King, & Magley, 2017).
Sexual violence prevention programs for boys and men
often target traditional masculinity norms and empower men
to change the masculine normative contexts supporting sexual
violence (Gidycz, Orchowski, & Berkowitz, 2011); similar
strategies may be used to reduce SH. Learning about SH from
the target’s perspective (empathy training) also reduces men’s
likelihood of SH (Diehl et al., 2014). Because media are a
powerful vehicle for the sexualized norms that contribute to
harassment, Galdi, Maas, and Cadinu (2014) recommend critical media education (media literacy) to reduce the effects of
objectifying media content.
Programs promoting bystander intervention (BI) are also
important for SH reduction. SH sometimes occurs in the presence of witnesses (bystanders) who can potentially confront
and halt harassers, report incidents, and support victims
(Bowes-Sperry & O’Leary-Kelly, 2005; Nickerson, Aloe,
Livingston, & Feeley, 2014). Many victims respond passively
due to the perceived risks of speaking up; they may need
others to act on their behalf (Berdahl & Raver, 2011). By
communicating norms at odds with harassment, BI plays a
role in changing the group, organizational, and cultural contexts that support SH (Ryan & Wessel, 2012), especially when
BI is a group effort.
Unfortunately, there is little research on BI and SH, but BI
training models have successfully promoted BI for rape prevention (Nickerson et al., 2014). Theory and research indicate
that BI is often a multistage process that begins with diagnosing
a situation as intervention appropriate (Burn, 2018). Because
uncertainty poses a barrier to interpretation, BI may be more
likely if we reduce ambiguity around people’s understandings
and definitions of SH. This type of education may be especially
important for men because they are less likely than women to
identify sexually harassing behaviors as SH (Bowes-Sperry &
O’Leary-Kelley, 2005). To increase diagnostic accuracy, education and training should also debunk myths that minimize
and deny SH and excuse perpetrators (see Lonsway et al., 2008,
for an extensive discussion of SH myths). Potential bystanders
also should learn about pluralistic ignorance (the mistaken
assumption of multiple bystanders that others’ inaction means
they should not act; see Burn, 2018) and victims’ tendencies to
underreact due to perceived costs (Bowes-Sperry & O’LearyKelley, 2005).
Identifying SH is not enough to motivate intervention;
bystanders must assume responsibility for action (BowesSperry & O’Leary-Kelley, 2005). But multiple witnesses may
lead bystanders to assume their help is unneeded and make
bystanders feel less individual responsibility (diffusion of
responsibility; Latane´ & Darley, 1970). Bystanders may also
assign responsibility for intervention to the victim’s friends, or
Burn 99
fellow in-group members, or to those “in charge” of the setting
(Burn, 2009). As such, framing BI as a role responsibility is
advised (e.g., it is the employee’s job to report incidents, SH BI
is consistent with aspects of the masculine role like honor and
Latane´ and Darley (1970) hypothesized that the degree of
personal responsibility taken by bystanders depends on their
judgments of the victim, in particular, whether the victim
“deserves” help. SH witnesses may be more likely to take
intervention responsibility if trainings counter SH myths
that blame victims (e.g., women ask for it by looking sexy,
women are hypersensitive, it is women’s responsibility to
stop it). For example, data and discussion are used in some
BI programs to counter victim-blaming stereotypes associated with rape (Gidycz et al., 2011). Empathy for victims is
also positively associated with SH BI responsibility (Nickerson et al., 2014). Information from credible, trustworthy
experts and vivid yet believable anecdotes and filmed victim stories about the short- and long-term effects on victims
may increase intervention likelihood by increasing empathy,
the perception of danger, and the costs of nonintervention
(Burn, 2018).
Bystanders may feel responsible and realize they need to
help but may not act if they do not know how or if they lack
confidence in their ability to do it successfully. Education and
training can increase bystander action by focusing on specific
things bystanders can say or do to intervene effectively.
Bowes-Sperry and O’Leary-Kelley (2005) offered a typology
of SH BI behaviors that could be useful for such training. The
typology classifies possible bystander actions along two
dimensions: immediacy (immediate action vs. later action) and
involvement (direct involvement vs. indirect involvement). For
example, high immediacy, high involvement actions require an
active and identifiable bystander action such as telling the harasser to stop. In contrast, low immediacy, low involvement
actions occur when bystanders later support the harassed person, for example, by privately encouraging them to avoid the
harasser or report the incident.
Audience inhibition—that is, bystander worry about what
others will think of them if they act—is another BI barrier
(Latane´ & Darley, 1970). For example, male bystanders may
believe that action will result in a loss of social status if SH is a
norm in their male group and if norms of loyalty to in-group
members contradict BI. Increasing empathy and the salience of
personal norms supportive of intervention may override perceived social norms contributing to audience inhibition. When
intervention requires “calling out” or acting to stop an aggressive in-group member, bystanders may be persuaded to intervene by framing in-group aggressors’ actions as running
counter to group norms and harming the group’s reputation
(Burn, 2018; Levine, Prosser, Evans, & Reicher, 2005). For
example, SH BI education can portray offenders as harming
the reputation of the in-group (e.g., sexual harassers give all
men a “bad name”; allowing SH harms the reputation of our
team, company, or industry).
Teaching About SH
Teachers can easily integrate the psychology of SH into many
psychology courses. For example, teachers can use the psychology of SH to demonstrate intersectionality (how people’s
experiences vary widely depending on the interplay of different
social categories and identities) and the idea of person-bysituation interaction. It can stimulate critical thinking about the
social construction of gender and conformity to traditional
gender roles. Teachers can also use the topic of SH in teaching
research methods courses. When teaching Latane´ and Darley’s
(1970) situational model of helping, SH BI can provide a topical and stimulating example of the BI process that can be a
source of student projects (e.g., students can use the material to
create context-specific BI programs). Students can practice
using psychological theory to explain behavior by applying
SH psychological perspectives to explain SH by women (an
understudied topic) or to particular groups, contexts, industries,
jobs, or publicized cases.
SH is of concern to psychologists because it is common and
associated with stress-related mental and physical conditions.
SH creates unequal, intimidating, hostile, abusive, and offensive environments that erode victims’ confidence and sense of
safety and interfere with people’s performance and aspirations.
Psychological theory and research point to sociocultural causes
and solutions. The psychology of SH can promote positive
individual, group, organizational, and social change and can
help teachers illustrate psychology’s role in understanding and
treating social problems and inequalities.
Declaration of Conflicting Interests
The author declared no potential conflicts of interest with respect to
the research, authorship, and/or publication of this article.
The author received no financial support for the research, authorship,
and/or publication of this article.
1. It should be noted that Fitzgerald et al. (1997) focused on the
workplace harassment of women. My description builds on that
to include other targets and additional SH behaviors and SH
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Author Biography
Shawn Meghan Burn, PhD, is
a professor of Psychology
Emerita at California Polytechnic State University, San Luis
Obispo. A first-generation college student, she received a
bachelor’s degree in psychology from Virginia Commonwealth University (1982) and
her master’s (1984) and PhD
degrees (1988) in applied
social psychology from Claremont Graduate University. She
applies psychology to understand and remedy individual,
group, organizational, and social problems and empowers laypeople to use psychology to problem solve. Her work includes
research on the psychology of environmental sustainability, the
social psychology of gender, group dynamics, heterosexism, prosocial behavior, and the interdisciplinary global study of women’s
issues. The author of four books, a blog for Psychology Today, and
many research articles, she currently teaches social psychology,
consults, and writes.
Burn 103

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