Respect and courtesy in psychological practice: An ethical examination

Document Type

Book Chapter


Cengage Learning Australia

Place of Publication

Victoria, Australia


Morrissey, S., Reddy, P., Davidson, G., & Allan, A.


Faculty of Education and Arts


School of Arts and Humanities




Allan, A., & Davidson, G. (2015). Respect and courtesy in psychological practice: An ethical examination. In Ethics and professional practice for psychologists (2nd ed., pp. 25-39). Victoria: Cengage Learning Australia.


Like other people, psychologists sometimes behave discourteously by being ill-mannered, impolite, inconsiderate, insulting, offensive, or rude. There is ample psychological research that discourteous behaviour can have an impact on persons’ functioning. Researchers report that targets of discourteous behaviour show greater psychological distress (Cortina, Magley, Williams, & Langhout, 2001), shame responses (Felblinger, 2008), poorer well-being (Taylor, 2010) and impaired performance on routine and creative tasks (Porath & Erez, 2009). Witnesses of such behaviour make negative generalizations about discourteous people and become angry with them. Such anger often leads to ruminations about the incident (Porath, MacInnis, & Folkes, 2010) which can lead to retaliatory behaviour that spirals into increasingly aggressive behaviour (Andersson & Pearson, 1999). Even if this does not happen, targets and bystanders of discourteous behaviour report a loss of trust, increased feelings of injustice, a tendency to avoid others (Taylor, 2010), and being uncooperative and unwilling to engage in citizenship behaviours (Porath & Erez, 2007; Porath et al., 2010). As can be expected, problem solving is impaired in groups within which there is discourteous behaviour (Chiu & Khoo, 2003) and such behaviour is often associated with a more pervasive pattern of antisocial behaviour such as sexual harassment (Lim & Cortina, 2005).

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