Document Type



Doctor of Philosophy



Date of Defense


Graduate Advisor

Sandra J. E. Langeslag, Ph.D.


Bettina J. Casad, Ph.D.


Devin E. Banks, Ph.D.

Stephanie M. Merritt, Ph.D.

Carissa L. Philippi, Ph.D.


Prior research shows the effects of sexism can accumulate over time, resulting in severe negative, cognitive, affective, motivational, and physiological consequences for women; however, most research focuses on the consequences of being a direct target of sexism, and the cognitive and motivational consequences of being a witness of sexism have not yet been fully explored. Additionally, while it is thought that allyship can help mitigate the consequences of sexism, minimal research has tested this relationship. It was proposed that shifts in reactive approach motivation (RAM); aimed to protect against anxiety and negative affect, may direct attention away from goal-oriented behaviors, inhibiting performance and self-regulation on current cognitive tasks. The study also investigated whether allyship acts as a protective factor against these impairments. Participants watched a Zoom interaction during which sexism occurs and the presence of an ally is manipulated (i.e., with allyship, without allyship). Participants completed self-report measures of state anxiety and negative affect and then were asked to sit quietly for five minutes, during which alpha hemispheric activity was recorded. After the session, participants completed a self-report measure of state approach motivation (i.e., BAS) and completed a cognitive task assessing an electrophysiological index of self-regulation (i.e., ERN amplitudes), proportion of correct responses, and response times. Results indicated that witnessing sexism negatively impacts women’s cognitive functioning and self-regulation, similar to being a direct target of sexism. Results investigating the effects of allyship were inconclusive. These results do not support prior research suggesting that allyship positively impacts those who experience sexism.