Role of Sexual Perception in Acquaintance-Initiated Sexual Aggression

Male-initiated sexual aggression toward female acquaintances is a major public-health problem on college campuses.  Theoretical models of sexual coercion and aggression between acquaintances implicate misperception of women’s sexual interest as a proximal predictor of sexually aggressive behavior.  The inclusion of misperception in theoretical models is supported by a burgeoning literature linking impoverished processing of women’s sexual interest to increased risk of sexually coercive or aggressive behavior.  For example, we have shown that high-risk men, relative to low-risk men, show less attention to, sensitivity to, and memory for women’s affective cues, and are more influenced by provocativeness of dress and other physical characteristics of women when judging women’s dating-relevant affect in full-body photographs.  Recently, we have begun the development and evaluation of training procedures designed to enhance the accuracy of men’s judgments of women’s sexual interest.  Both trial-by-trial feedback and explicit instruction about non-verbal affective indicators of women’s sexual interest have increased men’s focus on women’s affective cues and decreased men’s focus on women’s non-affective cues when judging women’s sexual interest.  Currently, we are completing an NIAAA-funded study to evaluate the extent to which an enhanced training protocol fosters robust transfer to a moderate dose of alcohol. We also are beginning an NIAAA-funded study that uses eye-tracking methods to evaluate the influence of a moderate dose of alcohol on men's overt visual attention to women's faces, women's bodies, and the social envrionment while judging women's momentary sexual interest.

  • Treat, T.A., Church, E.K., & Viken, R.J. (2017).Effects of gender, rape-supportive attitudes, and explicit instruction on perceptions of women’s momentary sexual interest.  Psychonomic Bulletin and Review, 24, 979-986.(pdf)
  • 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)
  • 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)
  • Treat, T.A., Viken, R.J., & Summers, S. (2015). Contextual influences on men’s perceptions of women’s sexual interest.  Archives of Sexual Behavior, 44, 2256-2271. (pdf)
  • Treat, T.A., Farris, C.A., Viken, R.J., & Smith, J.R. (2015).  Influence of sexually degrading music on men’s perceptions of women’s dating-relevant cues. Applied Cognitive Psychology, 29, 135-141. (pdf)
  • Treat, T.A., Viken, R.M., Kruschke, J.K. & McFall, R.M. (2011).  Men’s memory for women’s affective cues:  Normative findings and links to rape-supportive attitudes.  Journal of Applied Cognitive Psychology25, 802-810. (pdf).
  • Farris, C.A., Viken, R.J., & Treat, T.A. (2010).  Perceived association between diagnostic and non-diagnostic cues of women's sexual interest: General Recognition Theory predictors of risk for sexual coercion.  Journal of Mathematical Psychology54, 184-195. (pdf)
  • Farris, C.A., Treat, T.A., & Viken, R.J. (2010).  Alcohol alters men’s perceptual and decisional processing of women’s sexual interest. Journal of Abnormal Psychology119, 427-432. (pdf)
  • Farris, C.A., Treat, T.A., Viken, R.J., & McFall, R.M. (2008b).  Gender differences in perception of women’s sexual intent.  Psychological Science19, 348-354. (pdf)
  • Farris, C.A., Treat, T.A., Viken, R.J., & McFall, R.M. (2008a). Sexual coercion and the misperception of sexual intent.  Clinical Psychology Review28, 48-66. (pdf)
  • Farris, C.A., Viken, R.J., Treat, T.A., & McFall, R.M. (2006). Heterosocial perceptual organization:  A choice model application to sexual coercion. Psychological Science17, 869-875. (pdf)
  • Treat, T.A., McFall, R.M., Viken, R.J., Nosfosky, R.M., MacKay, D.B., & Kruschke, J.K. (2002). Assessing clinically relevant perceptual organization with multidimensional scaling techniques. Psychological Assessment14, 239-252. (pdf)
  • Treat, T.A., McFall, R.M., Viken, R.J., & Kruschke, J.K. (2001). Using cognitive science methods to assess the role of social information processing in sexually coercive behavior.  Psychological Assessment13, 549-565. (pdf)

Role of Affective Processing in Disordered Eating

Researchers increasingly have focused on the role of cognitive factors in the etiology, maintenance, and treatment of disordered eating.  Investigations have focused to a far greater degree on deficits in the processing of information about the self, rather than others, although social-comparison processes play a critical role in the development and maintenance of eating disorders.  Furthermore, this body of work has focused almost exclusively on the processing of disorder-specific information (i.e., shape, weight, eating, and food).  Preoccupation with shape, weight, eating, and food may result in or from impoverished processing of other significant information, however, such as affective information. Many women who struggle with eating-disorder symptoms report a keen sense of social ineffectiveness and display marked deficits in interpersonal problem solving and affect regulation.  Attention to, memory for, and learning about affective information is central to effective social interactions, suggesting that examination of affective processing may prove useful. Thus, we use tools drawn from cognitive science to investigate whether women reporting eating-disorder symptoms differentially process body-size and affective information presented in photos of other women.   

  • Treat, T.A., Kruschke, J.K., Viken, R.J., & McFall, R.M. (2011).  Application of associative-learning paradigms to clinically relevant individual differences in cognitive processing.  Associative learning and conditioning: Human and animal applications.  Oxford University Press. (pdf)Treat, T.A., Viken, R.J., Kruschke, J.K., & McFall, R.M. (2010). Role of attention, memory, and covariation-detection processes in clinically significant eating-disorder symptoms. Journal of Mathematical Psychology54, 184-195. (pdf)
  • Treat, T.A., & Viken, R.J. (2010).  Cognitive processing of weight and emotional information in disordered eating.  Current Directions in Psychological Science19, 81-85.  (pdf)
  • Viken, R.J., Treat, T.A., Bloom, S. L. & McFall, R.M. (2005).  Illusory correlation for body type and happiness: Covariation bias and its relationship to eating disorder symptoms.  International Journal of Eating Disorders38, 65-72. (pdf)
  • Viken, R.J., Treat, T.A., Nosfosky, R.M., McFall, R.M., & Palmeri, T. (2002).  Modeling individual differences in perceptual and attentional processes related to bulimic symptoms.  Journal of Abnormal Psychology111, 598-609. (pdf)

Clinically Relevant Visual Attention Processes

Numerous theoretical models implicate visual attention to clinically relevant information in the development, maintenance, and increasingly the modification, or a wide variety of clinical phenomena.  Clinical scientists’ conceptualization and measurement of visual attention tend to lag behind those of vision scientists, however.  We have published a critique of the theoretical and measurement models bearing on the role of attention in clinical anxiety that stressed the importance of distinguishing initial attention to a stimulus from withdrawal of attention from a stimulus, both conceptually and methodologically, which necessitates moving beyond Stroop and dot-probe paradigms to Posner cueing, visual search, and eye-tracking paradigms.  Subsequently, we have published several empirical papers that rely on more contemporary measurement approaches to examine the role of visual attention in disordered eating, depression, spider phobia, and trait anxiety.  Recently, Andrew Hollingworth and I completed an internally funded project that examines community women’s vigilance for and distraction by healthy and unhealthy food subsequent to manipulated induction of cravings for either healthy or unhealthy food.  Future research will delineate further the role of vigilance, avoidance, distraction, and disengagement processes in various clinical phenomena and evaluate the effectiveness and utility of attentional-retraining strategies that rely on more contemporary visual-attention paradigms.

  • Weierich, M.R., & Treat, T.A. (2015). Mechanisms of visual threat detection in specific phobia. Cognition and Emotion, 29, 992-1006. (pdf)
  • Farach, F.J., Treat, T.A., & Jungé, J.A. (2014).  Effects of induced and naturalistic mood on the temporal allocation of attention to emotional information.  Cognition and Emotion, 28, 993-1011. (pdf)
  • Gearhardt, A.N., Treat, T.A., Hollingworth, A., & Corbin, W.R. (2012) The relationship between eating-related individual differences and visual attention to foods high in added fat and sugar.   Eating Behaviors13, 371-374. (pdf).
  • Wisco, B. E., Treat, T. A., & Hollingworth, A. (2012). Visual attention to emotion in depression: Facilitation and withdrawal processes. Cognition and Emotion26, 602-614. (pdf).
  • Weierich, M.R., Treat, T.A., & Hollingworth, A.H. (2008).  Theories and measurement of visual attentional processing in anxiety.   Cognition and Emotion22, 985-1018. (pdf)

Measure Development

  • Weierich, M.R., & Treat, T.A. (2015). Mechanisms of visual threat detection in specific phobia. Cognition and Emotion, 29, 992-1006. (pdf)
  • Rizk, M.T., & Treat, T.A. (2015).  Sensitivity to portion size of unhealthy foods.  Food Quality and Preference, 45, 121-131.  (pdf)
  • Morean, M.E., Corbin, W.R., & Treat, T. (2015). Differences in subjective response to alcohol by gender, family history, binge drinking, heavy episodic drinking, and cigarette use:  Refining and broadening the scope of measurement.  Journal of Studies on Alcohol and Drugs, 76, 287-95. (pdf)
  • Rizk, M.T., & Treat, T.A. (2014).  An indirect approach to the measurement of nutrient-specific perceptions of food healthiness.  Annals of Behavioral Medicine, 48, 17-25. (pdf)
  • Woodward, H., Rizk, M.T., Wang, S.W., & Treat, T.A. (2014).  Disordered eating links to body-relevant and body-irrelevant influences on self-evaluation.  Eating Behaviors, 15, 205-208. (pdf)
  • Morean, M.E., Corbin, W.R., & Treat, T. (2013). The Subjective Effects of Alcohol Scale: Development and psychometric evaluation of a novel assessment tool for measuring subjective response to alcohol. Psychological Assessment, 25, 780-795. (pdf)
  • Treat, T.A., & Viken, R.J. (2012). Measuring test performance with signal detection theory techniques.  Handbook of Research Methods in Psychology.  Washington, DC: American Psychological Association. (pdf).
  • Morean, M.E., Corbin, W.R., & Treat, T.A. (2012).  The Anticipated Effects of Alcohol Scale: Development and psychometric evaluation of a novel assessment tool for measuring alcohol expectancies.  Psychological Assessment24, 1008-1023. (pdf).
  • Treat, T.A., McFall, R.M., Viken, R.J., Kruschke, J.K., Nosofsky, R.M., & Wang, S.S. (2007). Clinical-cognitive science: Applying quantitative models of cognitive processing to examination of cognitive aspects of psychopathology. In R.W.J. Neufeld (Ed.), Advances in clinical-cognitive science: Formal modeling and assessment of processes and symptoms (pp. 179-205).  Washington DC: APA Books. (pdf)
  • Farris, C.A., Viken, R.J., Treat, T.A., & McFall, R.M. (2006). Heterosocial perceptual organization:  A choice model application to sexual coercion. Psychological Science17, 869-875. (pdf)
  • Lease, A.M., McFall, R. M., Treat, T. A., & Viken, R. J. (2003).  Assessing children’s representations of their peer group using a multidimensional scaling technique.  Journal of Social and Personal Relationships20, 707-728. (pdf)
  • Treat, T.A., McFall, R.M., Viken, R.J., Nosfosky, R.M., MacKay, D.B., & Kruschke, J.K. (2002). Assessing clinically relevant perceptual organization with multidimensional scaling techniques. Psychological Assessment14, 239-252. (pdf)
  • McFall, R. M., Eason, B. J., Edmondson, C. B., & Treat, T. A. (1999).  Social competence and eating disorders:  Development and validation of the anorexia and bulimia problem inventory.  Journal of Psychopathology and Behavioral Assessment21, 365-394. (pdf)
  • McFall, R. M., & Treat, T. A. (1999).  Quantifying the information value of clinical assessments with signal detection theory.  Annual Review of Psychology50, 215-241. (pdf)

Treatment Development, Evaluation, and Dissemination

  • Teachman, B. A., & Treat, T.A.  (2011).  Reactions to the call to reboot psychotherapy research and practice:  Introduction to special section of comments on Kazdin and Blasé (2011).  Perspectives on Psychological Science6, 475-477. (pdf).
  • Treat, T.A., McCabe, E.B., Gaskill, J.A., & Marcus, M.D. (2008).  Treatment of anorexia nervosa in a specialty care continuum.  International Journal of Eating Disorders. (pdf)
  • Perepletchikova, F., Treat, T.A., & Kazdin, A.E. (2007). Treatment integrity in treatment-outcome research. Journal of Consulting and Clinical Psychology75, 829-841. (pdf)
  • Treat, T.A., Gaskill, J.A., McCabe, E.B., Ghinassi, F.A. , Luczak, A.D., & Marcus, M.D (2005).  Short-term outcome of psychiatric inpatients with anorexia nervosa in the current care environment.  International Journal of Eating Disorders38, 123-133. (pdf)
  • Stuart, G.L., Treat, T.A., & Wade, W.A. (2000).  Effectiveness of an empirically supported treatment for panic disorder delivered in a service clinic setting:  One-year follow-up. Journal of Consulting and Clinical Psychology68, 506-512. (pdf)
  • Wade, W.A., Treat, T.A., & Stuart, G.L.  (1998).  Exporting an empirically validated treatment of panic disorder to a naturalistic community setting:  A benchmarking strategy. Journal of Consulting and Clinical Psychology66, 231-239. (pdf)
  • McFall, R. M., Treat, T. A., & Viken, R. J. (1997).  Contributions of cognitive theory to new behavioral treatments.  Psychological Science8, 174-176. (pdf)