What can researchers tell the courts, and what can the courts tell researchers about sexual harassment?

Brian H. Bornstein, Meera Adya

Research output: Chapter in Book/Report/Conference proceedingChapter

1 Scopus citations


The chapters by Gutek and by Wiener and Winter (this volume) highlight what is possibly the most vexing component of sexual harassment jurisprudence, namely, how does the law of sexual harassment influence psychological research on the topic, and vice versa? As Gutek points out, it is difficult to determine exactly what the law is, because it is continually evolving. Both authors make the excellent point that the broader concept of "social-sexual behaviors" in the workplace-in contrast to the narrower legal concept of sexual harassment-affords a wealth of interesting psychological research topics, in areas such as person perception, attitudes, stereotypes, etc. Indeed, as we discuss in the text that follows, the concept of a continuum of "social-sexual behaviors" seems to be a promising guide for future research. However, to ensure that psychological research is still relevant in its applications such that it can influence the courts, public policy, and companies' policies, it is essential that it address relevant real-world and legal scenarios (Wiener & Hurt, 2000; Wiener et al., 2002;). In this chapter, we use the preceding chapters as a springboard to address several issues that have implications for how researchers should conduct studies of sexual harassment, and for the legal and policy implications of that research. First, we consider the diverse meanings of sexual harassment-that is, how the law and the public construe the term-and discuss some of the intended and unintended effects of sexual harassment policies. Second, we look at how the "totality of the circumstances" test applies to sexual harassment. Third, we consider some of the difficulties inherent in measuring sexual harassment and similar behaviors. We conclude with recommendations for what researchers and the courts can both do in addressing this vexing issue together.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Title of host publicationSocial Consciousness in Legal Decision Making
Subtitle of host publicationPsychological Perspectives
PublisherSpringer US
Number of pages10
ISBN (Print)9780387462172
StatePublished - 2007

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • General Psychology


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