Do You Say Something When It's Your Boss? The Role of Perpetrator Power in Prejudice Confrontation

Leslie Ashburn-Nardo, John C. Blanchar, Jessica Petersson, Kathryn A. Morris, Stephanie A. Goodwin

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

69 Scopus citations


Two experiments examined the role of perpetrator power in witnesses' decision to confront a prejudicial remark. In Experiment 1, participants who witnessed a sexist remark by a higher-power (vs. an equal-power) perpetrator were significantly less likely to express confrontation intentions, despite finding the remark highly biased and inappropriate. In Experiment 2, participants read scenarios involving a sexist versus racist remark perpetrated by someone higher vs. lower vs. equal in power, and they reported their confrontation intentions. Perpetrator power again inhibited direct confrontation intentions, and this effect was mediated by perceptions of responsibility for intervening, perceived ability to decide how to respond, and perceived costs versus benefits of confronting. Findings were not qualified by discrimination type (racism vs. sexism) or by individual differences in participant prejudice. Consistent with power-as-approach theory, feeling powerless increased sensitivity to confrontation obstacles and thereby inhibited confrontation intentions.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)615-636
Number of pages22
JournalJournal of Social Issues
Issue number4
StatePublished - Dec 1 2014
Externally publishedYes

Bibliographical note

Publisher Copyright:
© 2014 The Society for the Psychological Study of Social Issues.


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