Tracking men’s perceptions of women’s sexual interest

Sunday, March 15, 2020 - 3:45pm


Judging a woman’s current sexual interest in a specific man is a socially and emotionally complex decision. These judgments can be considered a form of perceptual decision-making in which men integrate both affective (emotional) and nonaffective cues. College men at risk of sexual aggression rely less on women’s affective cues and more on nonaffective cues, suggesting that cognitive processes may matter for real-world problems. However, in the real world, people may not have the luxury of waiting for processes to complete before they act. Recent work has used dynamic competition models of decision-making to examine this problem. These models assume that affective judgments (such as interested vs. rejecting) are partially activated by multiple cues and compete over time. This work, in which mouse tracking is used to index partial decision states, demonstrates that on-line measures predict rape-supportive attitudes over and above off-line (judgment) measures. This offers a new way to understand the cognitive core of an important societal problem.

To read the full paper:

Treat, T.A., McMurray, B., Smith*, J.R., & Viken, R.J. (2020).  Tracking men’s perceptions of women’s sexual interest.  Current Directions in Psychological Science, 29, 71-79. (pdf)