Karl Aquino


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Dissertations completed in 2010 or later are listed below. Please note that there is a 6-12 month delay to add the latest dissertations.

Two essays on perceptions of victimhood (2022)

In this dissertation I explore the consequences of perceptions of victimhood in two substantive domains: intergroup conflict between disadvantaged groups and consumer hostility toward firms. In the intergroup conflict domain, I examine competitive victimhood, which is seeing one’s own group as having suffered more than an outgroup (Young & Sullivan, 2016). In the domain of consumer/firm interactions, the service failure literature has considered consequences of service failures, such as consumer complaining behavior, and methods to recover from failures, but little work has considered the psychology underlying hostile reactions of consumers to firms following commercial interactions where service failure is absent. Hostile reactive attitudes prompted by victim framing provides a unifying framework with which I consider intergroup relations between members of disadvantaged groups and interactions between consumers and firms.Essay 1 explores the conditions under which disadvantaged groups engage in mutual derogation. Particular identities, often connected to perceptions of historical injustice or contemporary discrimination, suffuse social life, both in political discourse (Fukuyama, 2018; Schlesinger, 1998) and, increasingly, both the marketplace and the workplace. Historically, groups have mostly sought portrayal as powerful, as power signified virtue. However, in modern times, portrayal as a victim is one way to justify concern and extract resources, providing a benefit from competing for victimhood. I propose that competitive victimhood of this form emerges from a zero-sum perception that resources available are limited.Essay 2 identifies a practical consequence for firms and consumers of victimhood beliefs. Specifically, I investigate victim signaling behaviors (Ok et al., 2020), a stable individual difference. Across four studies, I demonstrate that victim signaling is positively associated with hostile reactive attitudes toward firms when service is neutral (compared to service failure). Essay 2 contributes to the existing literature on consumer reactions to service failure and individual differences in victim signaling behavior.Together, these two chapters show how victim framing influences intergroup relations and consumer to firm dynamics. I propose, and find evidence for, intrapsychic processes to explain the relationships between victim framing and competitive victimhood (zero-sum thinking) and between victim framing and hostile reactive attitudes (consumer perception of discrimination).

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Taking the road less travelled: two essays on encouraging uncommon prosocial behaviors (2021)

Encouraging prosocial consumer behaviors (i.e., behaviors that involve individual self-sacrifice for the benefit of others) can often be difficult, especially when such behaviors are uncommon. This dissertation illustrates how comparing low rates of descriptive norms (i.e., what people actually do) with other information can highlight the differences between desired and current states, thereby encouraging uncommon, but socially desirable behaviors. I demonstrate how these comparisons can encourage uncommon prosocial behavior in two different domains: charitable giving and organ donor registration. In essay 1 (7 studies, N = 2,739), I explore how charities that have made little progress towards their fundraising goals can raise funds more effectively by including comparisons with a different charity closer to its goal. I show that when charitable organizations are presented jointly, the comparison highlights relative need leading to greater giving to the organization further from its goal. I further demonstrate that this occurs only when communal norms are active, such as when donating to charities, but not when people focus on market exchange norms for businesses. I test the robustness of the effect by varying the level of goal progress, emphasizing the amount needed to reach the goal, and making it possible for the donor to complete the goal. Finally, I use a large dataset pulled from kiva.org to empirically demonstrate this effect on giving in real crowdfunding situations. In essay 2 (5 studies, N = 2,965), I demonstrate that combining low descriptive norms with high injunctive norms (i.e., what others think we should do), making salient the discrepancy between what people think they should do and what they actually do, results in greater organ donor registrations than communicating either descriptive or injunctive norms separately. I show that feelings of responsibility mediate these findings and that making the situation feel psychologically close increases responsibility and intentions to register for low descriptive and high injunctive norms alone, to the level of combined norms. Overall, this dissertation helps extend our understanding of how comparative messaging can indeed increase prosocial behaviors with low rates of prevalence.

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Sisters at Arms: Female Same-Sex Conflict at Work (2014)

I propose and test portions of a two-stage model that investigates the pervasive belief that women have more dysfunctional same-sex workplace relationships than men. In the first stage of this model, I assume that female same-sex conflict transpires more frequently than male same-sex conflict and make a series of propositions about why this might be the case. For example, I propose that perhaps women react worse than men to non-communal women in workplace contexts, which then sets the stage for enhanced conflict. In the second stage, I set aside consideration of gender differences in same-sex conflict frequency and discuss why female same-sex conflict might simply be problematized by third parties relative to male same-sex conflict. I conducted five studies to determine which of these two explanations best accounts for the belief that women have more dysfunctional same-sex workplace relationships than men. In Chapter 1, I present the entirety of the model, and associated propositions, that I have developed as the basis for my dissertation and future research. In Chapter 2, I present the results of two scenario studies, which, taken together suggest that third parties view female same-sex conflict as more person-related (e.g., caused by interpersonal disliking) (Study 1) and more disruptive to relationship quality and work-related attitudes (Study 2) than male same-sex conflict. In Chapter 3, I turn to first parties’ perceptions in order to test the first stage of my model. Study 3 provides support for my proposition that women react worse than men to non-communal women, and that this leads to greater collective threat. Study 4, however, demonstrated that men and women did not experience different frequencies of same-sex conflict, nor did their same-sex conflict differ in meaningful ways. Finally, Study 5 demonstrated that individuals did not generally report more or less negative outcomes of workplace conflict as a function of their gender and the gender of their co-party in conflict. Overall, the results of my dissertation are more suggestive of a generalized problematization of female same-sex workplace conflict (relative to male same-sex conflict) than they are of a generalized dysfunction within women’s same-sex workplace relationships.

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Third Party Reactions to Justice Failure: An Empirical Test (2014)

I propose a model that explores the consequences of justice failure. I conceptualize justice failure as a threat to meaning and propose that one way third party observers could react to justice failure is by engaging in fluid compensation. I also propose that identity influences individuals’ reaction to justice failure such that for individuals high in moral identity, compensation is more likely to occur in the moral domain than in other domains. Finally, as a result of affirming the moral domain, individuals high in moral identity are more likely to (a) engage in more ethical behavior (b) judge morally ambiguous behaviors as more immoral and (c) more supportive of corporate social responsibility (CSR) programs than individuals low in moral identity. Five experiments were conducted to partially test this model. In Chapter 1, I present an experiment demonstrating that not everyone is equally threatened by justice failure; rather, those who strongly endorse belief in just world are more threatened by justice failure than those who endorse such belief less strongly (Experiment 1). In Chapter 2, I present two experiments demonstrating the effect of moral identity on third parties’ reaction to justice failure (Experiments 2a, 2b, and 3). In Chapter 3, I present two additional experiments demonstrating that exposure to justice failure led third parties to 1) purchase more green products 2) support a fellow university student for a job promotion if they were high in environmental (Experiment 4) and university identity (Experiment 5). Finally, in Chapter 5, I discuss the implications of my theory and findings for research on third party justice and meaning maintenance.

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Third parties' morally-motivated responses to mistreatment in organizations (2013)

Why do third parties, individuals who are not the direct target of an act of mistreatment, attempt to either punish the perpetrator or help the victim? Starting with the basic proposition that third parties intervene when they perceive an act of mistreatment as morally wrong and that intervening is the morally right thing to do, I construct a model of third parties’ morally-motivated responses to others’ mistreatment. I draw from theories of deontic justice, moral intuitions, moral identity and moral emotions to explain why some third parties will be motivated to respond while others will not. I incorporate third party power, in the form of personal resources and hierarchical position, to provide a more nuanced explanation of how third parties will respond once motivated to do so in an actual workplace setting. In Studies 1 to 3, I test the basic propositions of my model. Study 1 finds that moral anger mediates the relationship between third parties’ moral identity and injustice cognitions. Study 2 finds that moral anger mediates the relationship between third parties’ moral identity and punishment. Study 3 finds that resource power is associated with helping the victim and indirect punishment and that relative position power is associated with direct and indirect punishment. In Studies 4 to 6, I extend my research to consider whether third parties react differently depending on the type of justice violation. I test the proposition that third parties’ moral reactions are stronger in response to interpersonal injustice than the other types of injustice commonly studied in the organizational sciences. I find evidence for the stronger impact of interpersonal injustice in comparison to distributive injustice (Studies 4 and 5) and procedural injustice (Study 6). I conclude with a discussion of the theoretical and practical implications of this dissertation.

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