Research Highlights

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

    October 21, 2016

    Abstract

    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)

     

  • Effects of gender, rape-supportive attitudes, and explicit instruction on perceptions of women’s sexual interest

    October 21, 2016

    Abstract

    Contemporary models of male-initiated sexual aggression toward female acquaintances implicate misperception of women’s sexual interest. This study investigated the effects of gender, rape-supportive attitudes and an instructional manipulation on college students’ sexual-interest judgments. Two hundred seventy-six women and 220 men judged the cues of momentary sexual interest expressed by photographed women; half received instruction on the differential validity of nonverbal cues of sexual interest for estimation of women’s momentary sexual interest. Participants also completed an assessment of rape-supportive attitudes. Overall, college students’ perceptions of women’s momentary sexual interest are compromised both nomothetically and idiographically. Both male and female college students relied not only on women’s nonverbal affect but also on the provocativeness of women’s clothing and attractiveness when judging women’s sexual interest. Men and women showed similar average ratings, but women relied more than men on women’s affect, whereas men relied more than women on women’s attractiveness. Both male and female students who endorsed more rape-supportive attitudes, relative to their peers, relied less on women’s affect and more on women’s clothing style and attractiveness. Explicit instruction regarding the greater validity of women’s affective than nonaffective cues enhanced focus on nonverbal affective cues and decreased focus on clothing style and attractiveness. Although higher rape-supportive attitudes predicted more deficits in processing cues of sexual interest, explicit instruction proved to be effective for both higher-risk and lower-risk participants. These findings highlight the generalizability of the well-established effects of explicit instruction on category learning to sexual perception and may point to procedures that eventually could be incorporated into augmented prevention programs for sexual aggression on college campuses.

    To read the full paper:

    Treat, T.A., Church*, E.K., & Viken, R.J. (in press).  Effects of gender, rape-supportive attitudes, and explicit instruction on perceptions of women’s sexual interest.  Psychonomic Bulletin and Review. (pdf)

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

    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)

  • Perceptions of Food Healthiness among Free-Living Women

    August 1, 2015

    Abstract

    Background: Improving our understanding of food-related healthiness perception may be beneficial to assist those with eating- and weight-related problems. Purpose: This study replicates and extends prior work by examining normative and person-specific predictors of the perceived healthiness of foods in a sample of free-living women. Methods: One hundred sixty-nine women from the community judged the healthiness of 104 foods that varied in fat, fiber, sugar, and protein content. Mixed-effects modeling estimated normative influences of food-specific and individual-specific characteristics on each participant’s utilization of the nutrients when judging healthiness. Results: When judging healthiness, free-living women relied substantially on fat and fiber independently of other nutrients. In contrast, reliance on fat and fiber was moderated by the presence of protein and sugar. Three bivariate interactions emerged between: 1) fiber and sugar; 2) fat and protein; and 3) fiber and protein. Binge-eating symptoms and frequency of healthy food consumption positively correlated with independent reliance on fat as a predictor of perceived healthiness. Conclusions: Public health campaigns should continue to encourage free-living women to consume adequate amounts of protein. Additionally, free-living women should be reminded that the presence of sugar in foods without nourishing components (i.e., fiber, protein) is problematic, and consuming these foods in excess should be avoided. Healthy food consumption appears to enhance perceptions of food healthiness.

    To read the full paper:

    Rizk*, M.T., & Treat, T.A. (in press). Perceptions of food healthiness among free-living women.  Appetite. (pdf)