Purdue University Graduate School
Bradley MS 2021.pdf (748.58 kB)

The Effect of Invisibility on Exploitative Behaviors

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posted on 2021-07-21, 13:54 authored by Eboni BradleyEboni Bradley
Invisibility is an abstract concept captured in film, literature, and social science. It is often desired as a superpower and in fiction portrayed as something that allows self-serving behaviors otherwise prevented by visibility. However, as a social construct used to describe marginalized individuals, it is regarded as largely distressing and disadvantageous. Key to these two opposing conceptualizations is the temporariness or permanence of the invisibility—if temporary and under the control of the individual, it serves the individual’s needs and desires; if permanent, it strips the individual of a sense of meaning and worthiness. The present studies examine invisibility from both perspectives. Studies 1 and 2 demonstrate the desirable aspects of temporary invisibility, but also show that people are less enamored with possessing invisibility when its occurrence is permanent or not under the control of the individual. In Study 3, employing a 3-person video telephony paradigm, I test the impact of ostracism—being ignored and excluded—for one of two motives: role prescribed, in which individuals’ roles encourage their social invisibility, and oblivious, in which status differentials render those with lower status invisible. The results show that whereas obliviously ostracized individuals take advantage of their invisibility to prematurely begin a questionnaire, they also show higher levels of personal distress. These results indicate that being unnoticed may have negative psychological impact on individuals while also affording them the opportunity to engage in self-serving, yet possibly socially undesirable, behaviors.


Degree Type

  • Master of Science


  • Psychological Sciences

Campus location

  • West Lafayette

Advisor/Supervisor/Committee Chair

Kipling D. Williams

Additional Committee Member 2

Janice Kelly

Additional Committee Member 3

Margo Monteith

Additional Committee Member 4

James Tyler

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