When is a threat more or less of a threat? The sensitivity of psychologically central identities to threat and the resulting impact on work
Johnson, Hana Huang
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Psychologically central identities are those that are so important to individuals’ self-definition that they are top-of-mind for individuals across situations. This becomes a critical consideration when these identities interfere with employees’ behavior at work. In this dissertation, I support the existence of psychological centrality with two construct validity studies and test my predictions with an experiment and field study. I found support for the distinction of psychological centrality from other identification dimensions and created a reliable psychological centrality scale. With the experiment and field study, I demonstrated the negative emotions, anger, and cognitive interference that result from identity threat and subsequent effects on undesirable work behaviors and poor job attitudes. Finally, I identified a contextual factor that can minimize identity threat – openness to experience work group identity. My dissertation contributes to the field by making psychological centrality known as a construct that can be considered when studying a multitude of organizational behavior phenomena. I also begin to uncover organizational practices that can minimize identity threat.