Date of Award

Spring 2019


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Document Type


Degree Name

Master of Science (MS) in Psychology: General/Experimental




Previous research has demonstrated the negative impact of stereotypes on Black individuals in the workplace, including differential employment rates between races, the influence of race on hiring decisions, and the effect of racial discrimination on job satisfaction and turnover. However, the impact of racial stereotypes on employees’ decisions to report a witnessed wrongdoing (i.e., whistleblowing) have not been examined. In this study, I investigated whether racial stereotypes and confirmation biases make an individual more likely to blow the whistle on a Black coworker than a White coworker for the same wrongdoing. I also examined the potential moderating effect of the moral intensity of the issue (i.e., level of harm), given that other stereotypes were shown to be influential in some whistleblowing decisions in past research. In the present study college student participants read a scenario in which a hypothetical coworker committed a wrongdoing. The race of the wrongdoer and the level of harm associated with the wrongdoing were manipulated. Participants indicated their likelihood of reporting the individual and the level of punishment they would recommend. It was predicted that racial confirmation biases would make participants more likely to report their Black versus White coworker for the same wrongdoing, and more likely to recommend a harsher punishment. It was also predicted that when the level of harm to another was high versus low, the likelihood of reporting the wrongdoing and the suggested punishment severity would also be high, and the race of the coworker would play less of a role given that the situation was less ambiguous. It was hypothesized that when moral intensity of the issue was low and the situation was more ambiguous, confirmation biases would cause participants to see the Black coworker as more culpable—leading them to recommend harsher punishments for the Black coworker than for the White coworker. The study’s results demonstrated the hypothesized effect of level of harm on punishment recommendations and reporting likelihood. However, effects of race were not demonstrated. Implications of this study include the implementation of employee training that highlights behaviors to report, regardless of their consequences.