Dissertations, Theses, and Capstone Projects

Date of Degree


Document Type


Degree Name





Harold Goldstein

Committee Members

Julie Dinh

Zhiqing Zhou

Charles Scherbaum

Logan Watts

Subject Categories

Industrial and Organizational Psychology


diversity, backlash, narratives, storytelling, psychological reactance, persuasion


Diversity initiatives represent key priorities for many organizations, but research and recent high-profile examples suggest that diversity initiatives can generate significant backlash, particularly among organizational members. The primary aim of this study is to investigate how narrative forms of diversity initiative messaging may attenuate backlash among organizational members compared to more traditional expository forms of diversity initiative messaging. Drawing on research related to narrative communication, persuasion, and diversity, I proposed a first-stage dual moderated mediation model where psychological reactance and perceptions of realistic threat mediate the negative effect of narrative (vs. expository) diversity messaging on backlash. Additionally, I examined whether an individual difference variable (i.e., social dominance orientation [SDO]) and a messaging characteristic (i.e., presence vs. absence of an explicit conclusion) moderate the proposed mediated effects. Undergraduate participants (N = 249) were exposed to messaging in either a narrative or expository format about a university student diversity initiative before completing experimental tasks assessing the extent to which they engage in behaviors demonstrating support or opposition to the position advocated in the diversity messaging. Results revealed no statistically significant moderated mediation, but there was mixed evidence suggesting that narrative (vs. expository) diversity messaging somewhat reduced psychological reactance, and that both psychological reactance and perceived realistic threat predicted increased backlash. Additionally, SDO was generally related to increased psychological reactance, perceived realistic threat, and backlash. Findings of this study may inform best practices for generating greater buy-in for organizational diversity initiatives, a capability that will likely become increasingly important for organizations.