Date of Award


Degree Type


Degree Name

Doctor of Philosophy (PhD)


Psychological Sciences

Committee Chair

Margo J. Monteith

Committee Member 1

James M. Tyler

Committee Member 2

Kipling D. Williams

Committee Member 3

Janice R. Kelly


Internal motivation to respond without sexism (Klonis, Plant, & Devine, 2005) may be a powerful way to combat sexism and gender discrimination. However, little is known about how this motivation develops. Drawing from self-determination theory (Ryan & Deci, 2000), Experiment 1 demonstrated that teaching people about the harmful consequences of sexism in a way that supported their fundamental human needs for autonomy and competence strengthened internal motivation. However, harm information and fundamental need support only increased internal motivation for participants low in social dominance orientation (SDO; Pratto, Sidanius, Stallworth, & Malle, 1994). Participants low in SDO reported the greatest recognition of everyday sexism as harmful, greatest perceived importance of the goal of avoiding sexism, and the greatest increase in internal motivation to respond without sexism when they had learned about the harmful consequences of sexism in a supportive context. Experiment 2 examined the development of internal motivation across time. Specifically, this experiment demonstrated that supporting fundamental needs (vs. a neutral condition) promoted greater competence need fulfillment, greater attempts to avoid sexism (i.e., goal striving) and greater success at avoiding sexism (i.e., goal attainment) across six weeks, and ultimately predicted greater internal motivation to respond without sexism at the end of the experiment. Unlike Experiment 1, the effects of receiving support for fundamental needs was not moderated by either SDO or harm information. Finally, Experiment 2 demonstrated that the experimentally boosted internal motivation to respond without sexism increased participants’ willingness to confront sexism. Taken together, these two experiments suggest that the combined intervention, providing both a supportive context and information about the harmful consequences of sexism, may be a promising intervention for promoting internal motivation and for combatting gender bias and its negative consequences.