Dehumanization of older people: The evaluation of hostile work environments

Richard L. Wiener, Sarah J. Gervais, Ena Brnjic, Gwenith D. Nuss

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

20 Scopus citations


This research examined how people judge hostile work environments in which members of a work setting derogate other workers because they are older and presumed to be incompetent based on a psycholegal model incorporating negative affect and dehumanization (Wiener, Gervais, Brnjic, & Nuss, 2014). Specifically, we conducted a study in which a national sample of community participants read a scenario in which an interviewer did or did not derogate an older worker in a work interview. Respondents predicted affect (negative and positive), rated dehumanization (animalistic and mechanistic), and assessed hostile work environment (legal and impact). Consistent with hypotheses, derogation of the older worker caused more negative affect, more animalistic and mechanistic dehumanization, and more hostile work environment perceptions. Further, consistent with the mechanisms posited by our psycholegal model, path analysis revealed that negative affect and mechanistic dehumanization explained the relation between age derogation and hostile work environment judgments. The paper ends with a discussion of implications for organizations, law, and psychology, as well as directions for future research.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)384-397
Number of pages14
JournalPsychology, Public Policy, and Law
Issue number4
StatePublished - Nov 1 2014


  • Ageism
  • Dehumanization
  • Discrimination
  • Hostile work environments
  • Legal decision-making
  • Negative affect

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Social Psychology
  • Sociology and Political Science
  • Law


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