Information Acquisition in Sexual Aggression

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Abstract

Objective: This study is the first to examine how the manner of searching for information in the social environment is associated with college male students’ self-reports of sexual aggression and attitudes supportive of sexual aggression. Method: A modified MouselabWEB task, a Web-based program for tracing information acquisition processes, was utilized in this study. Asked to imagine themselves in a social situation, participants (N = 167) were tasked to reveal and gather information about 5 women by clicking on and opening “boxes” in a 5 (Number of Women) × 6 (Number of Female Attributes) matrix grid. Female attributes include attractiveness, sharing similar interests, dressing sexy, having an “easy” reputation, being intoxicated, and being alone most of the time. Results: The data suggest that those who engaged in prior sexually aggressive acts and those with attitudes supportive of sexual aggression were more likely to search for information related to a woman’s vulnerability. The manner of searching for sexual aggression-related information also partially mediated the relationship between hostile attitudes toward women and self-reported sexual aggressive behavior. Conclusions: At-risk men actively search for information consistent with their attitudes supportive of sexual violence against women. This study also informs prevention efforts, indicating the viability of intervening at the level of judgment and decision processes.

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