College of Science and Health Theses and Dissertations

Date of Award

Summer 8-20-2017

Degree Type


Degree Name

Master of Arts (MA)



First Advisor

Suzanne T. Bell, PhD

Second Advisor

Douglass Cellar, PhD


This study tested part of a recently developed theoretical model of proactive workplace aggression put forth by Dixon, Chang, and Johnson (2015). The model postulates distinct motives underlying why perpetrators will morally justify their aggressive behavior, dependent upon the relative in/out-group status and relative hierarchical status of the target. Participants from Amazon’s MTurk community were shown one of four vignettes that described a team workplace scenario where the participant was presented with the choice to act aggressively toward a coworker in order to help facilitate the team’s goal. All four of the model’s dyadic perpetrator-target relationships were represented, but the focal compliance motive was held constant. Moral justifiability of the aggressive behavior was measured, as was psychological collectivism and just-world beliefs; impression management served as a control variable. Multiple regression analyses did not support the tested model. Although participants did believe proactive aggression to ensure compliance was more morally justifiable when the target was within the same group and of a lower hierarchy, only target group membership status proved a significant predictor. Partial support was found for predictions surrounding the relationships between moral justifiability of aggression and the constructs of just-world beliefs and one facet of psychological collectivism. Theoretical and practical implications are discussed, as are directions for future research.

SLP Collection