Enhancing the accuracy of men’s perceptions of women's sexual interest in the laboratory

Friday, October 21, 2016


Objective: We evaluate a novel feedback-based procedure designed to enhance the accuracy of men’s judgments of women’s sexual interest in the laboratory, as misperception of sexual interest is implicated in male-initiated sexual aggression toward acquaintances. Method: In an initial rating task, 183 undergraduate males judged the sexual interest of women in full-body photographs; the women varied along sexual interest, clothing style, and attractiveness dimensions. Half of the participants received feedback on their ratings. In a related transfer task, participants indicated whether women in photographs would respond positively to a sexual advance. History of sexual aggression and rape-supportive attitudes were assessed. Results: Participants relied substantially on both affective and nonaffective cues when judging women’s sexual interest. High-risk men relied less on affect and more on attractiveness. Feedback enhanced focus on women’s affective cues and decreased focus on nonaffective cues for both low-risk and high-risk men. Feedback affected transfer performance indirectly, via altered cue usage in the training task. Conclusions: The current work documents high-risk men’s altered focus on women’s affective and nonaffective cues and provides encouraging support for the potential use of a cognitive training paradigm to enhance men’s perceptions of women’s sexual-interest cues, albeit to a lesser degree
for high-risk men.

To read the full paper:

Treat, T.A., Viken, R.J., Farris*, C.A., & Smith*, J.R. (2016). Enhancing the accuracy of men’s perceptions of women's sexual interest in the laboratory.  Psychology of Violence, 6, 562-572. (pdf)