Men's perceptions of women's sexual interest: Effects of environmental context, sexual attitudes, and women's characteristics

Thursday, October 20, 2016

Abstract

Men’s perceptions of women’s sexual interest were studied in a sample of 250 male undergraduates, who rated 173 full-body photos of women differing in expressed cues of sexual interest, attractiveness, provocativeness of dress, and the social-environmental context into which the woman’s photo had been embedded. Environmental context significantly influenced men’s judgments of sexual interest, independently of the affective cues of sexual interest themselves and of provocativeness of dress and attractiveness. Cue usage was moderated by men’s risk for sexual aggression, as measured by a rape-myth inventory, with higher-risk men (relative to lower-risk men) relying significantly less on affective cues, relying significantly more on attractiveness, and showing a non-significant tendency to rely more on environmental cues. Men exhibited a moderate degree of insight into individual differences in their cue usage. Analysis of individual differences in cue usage suggested that men’s judgments of women’s momentary sexual interest varied along two dimensions: (1) men who relied more on affective cues were less likely to rely on women’s attractiveness (r = −0.73); and (2) men who were influenced more by provocativeness of dress were also likely to rely more on environmental context (r = 0.49). Results suggest that variation in contextual variables should be included in cognitive-training programs designed to improve the accuracy of men’s judgments of women’s affective responses. Ultimately, such training programs may prove useful as an adjunct to prevention programs for sexual aggression.

To read the full report:

Treat, T.A., Hinkel*, H., Smith*, J.R., & Viken, R.J. (2016). Men's perceptions of women's sexual interest: Effects of environmental context, sexual attitudes, and women's characteristics.  Cognitive Research: Principles and Implications, 1:8. (pdf)