Psychology Ph.D. Dissertations


The Effects of Diversity Initiatives on the Distortion of Applicant Qualifications and Decision Standards

Date of Award


Document Type


Degree Name

Doctor of Philosophy (Ph.D.)



First Advisor

Scott Highhouse


It is common practice for organizations to implement policies to encourage race and gender diversity in the workforce. Do these initiatives influence hiring managers’ selection decisions and motivate hiring managers to distort their assessments of applicant qualifications and their interpretations of selection standards? The current study investigated these questions with an employee selection scenario; manipulating hiring policy (Diversity Initiative vs. Equal Opportunity), applicant sex (female vs. male) and the timing (predecision vs. postdecision) of respondents’ ratings. Consistent with past research on dissonance reduction, respondents distorted their postdecision interpretations of the selection standard and their ratings of applicant qualifications for applicants that were not selected to align with their hiring decision. Contrary to expectations, among respondents who selected the applicant, those who rated qualifications prior to stating their hiring decision provided higher ratings than those who provided postdecision ratings. Contrary to expectations, the diversity initiative did not motivate respondents to distort qualifications or decision standards prior to stating their hiring decision for applicants targeted by the initiative. The sole impact of the diversity initiative was its effect on selection decisions for applicants not targeted by the policy. While the female applicant (i.e., the target of the diversity initiative) was no more likely to be hired in the context of the diversity initiative than under the equal opportunity policy, the male applicant was less likely to be hired under the diversity initiative.