Dennis E. McChargue
Date of this Version
Prior studies have established the role of rape-supportive attitudes and alcohol consumption in sexual coercive behaviors among college students. However, less research has examined the role of more proximal variables such as decision processes. Utilizing the subjective expected utility (SEU) model of decision making, this study aimed to examine how decisions are made in a date-rape scenario utilizing a vignette methodology. The SEU model posits that decisions to engage in a behavior are contingent on perceived utility of the action, perceived probability of the utility occurring, perceived cost of the behavior, and the perceived probability of the cost occurring. Higher SEU scores indicate overemphasis of the utility function and underemphasis of the costs. This study also examined how de-biasing techniques, specifically consider-the-opposite, can aid in correcting decision biases related to sexual coercive behaviors.
Male college students (N = 161) were randomly assigned to either a control group (n = 83) or consider-the-opposite (n = 78) group. Interaction effects were significant, such that higher rape supportive attitude and high alcohol consumption reported the highest self-reported sexual coercive behavior. Results also indicated that rape-supportive attitudes affected decisions. Specifically, males with high rape-supportive attitudes had higher SEU scores (i.e., tend to overemphasize the utility and underemphasize the cost) across the date-rape vignette scenario. The consider-the-opposite intervention reduced SEU scores, but only during ambiguous events where sexual coercive behaviors were not as blatant. Moreover, consider-the-opposite interventions helped reduce the likelihood to engage in sexual coercive behaviors by reducing SEU scores and correcting decision biases during these ambiguous events. Results illustrate how biased decision processes explain the rape-supportive attitudes, alcohol consumption, and sexual coercive behavior relationship.
Advisor: Dennis E. McChargue