|The Relationship between Implicit and Explicit Evaluations of Sexual Aggression and Sexually Aggressive Behavior|
|Chantal A. Hermann, Ph.D. |
Ontario Ministry of Community Safety and Correctional Services
Evaluations are an individual’s
evaluative thoughts about something such as a person, object, or behavior
(e.g., Albarracín, Zanna, Johnson, & Kumkale, 2005; Ajzen,
2001; Gawronski & Bodenhausen, 2007). Social psychology theory and research
support the idea that evaluations, in part, predict behavior (e.g., Ajzen 1991,
2001; Glasman & Albarracín, 2006; Kraus, 1995). Empirical
evidence suggests this is true whether the evaluations are immediate (implicit
evaluations) or deliberative (explicit evaluations), and that both the
immediate and deliberative evaluations are important (e.g., Greenwald &
Farnham, 2000; Nosek & Smyth, 2007). From this research, Kevin Nunes, our
colleagues, and I hypothesized that how someone evaluates sexual aggression
would predict, in part whether or not they would engage in sexually aggressive behavior.
this research question, we conducted several cross-sectional studies examining
the relationship between implicit and explicit evaluations of rape and sexually
aggressive behavior. As I noted above, we hypothesized that evaluations would
be associated with sexually aggressive behavior, but this had not previously been
explored in research. Some of our studies have found more positive implicit
evaluations of rape are associated with self-reported sexually aggressive
behavior and self-reported likelihood to rape (Nunes, Hermann, & Ratcliffe,
2013), and all have found more positive explicit evaluations of rape are
associated with self-reported sexually aggressive behavior and self-reported
likelihood to rape (Hermann, Nunes, & Maimone, 2016; Nunes, Hermann, White,
Pettersen, & Bumby, 2016; Nunes et al., 2013). For example, in our first study
exploring this research question, Nunes et al. (2013) found implicit and explicit evaluations were independently
associated with past sexually aggressive behavior and self-reported likelihood
to rape in a sample of students.
We also wanted to explore
this research question using a sample of men recruited from the community. Sexual
aggression encompasses behaviors that differ on dimensions of tactic (verbal
coercion to physical aggression) and activity
(unwanted kissing or touching to penetrative acts). We know that many sexual
assaults go undetected, and even if they are detected, may not result in
official charges or convictions. This means that individuals with convictions
for sexual aggression may not be fully representative of men who engage in
sexually aggressive behavior against adults. In our past research we have used
student samples, but these samples tend to be fairly homogeneous in their
demographic characteristics, so they also may not be fully representative of
men who engage in sexually aggressive behavior against adults. Community
samples can offer diversity and complement samples of students and men with
convictions for sexual aggression against adults.
Nunes, and Maimone (2016) we explored whether implicit and explicit evaluations
of sexual aggression were associated with sexually aggressive behavior in
samples of students and community men. In both samples we found explicit
evaluations of sexual aggression were moderately to strongly associated with
sexually aggressive behavior, but this same pattern of results was not found
for implicit evaluations of sexual aggression. These results suggested more
research was needed to explore the role implicit and explicit evaluations play
in sexual aggression.
interest is whether evaluations of sexual aggression predict future sexually
aggressive behavior. If evaluations are a causal factor for this type of
behavior, then we would expect that they would predict whether or not people
engage in future sexually aggressive behavior. To the best of our knowledge, we
are the first to explore this research question. In Hermann and Nunes (2016),
we found implicit and explicit evaluations of sexual aggression independently
predicted whether community men engaged in future sexually aggressive behavior.
These results are noteworthy as they provide new evidence about the direction
of potential influence between evaluations and sexually aggressive behavior.
Furthermore, our results are consistent with the idea—but of course do not
demonstrate—that implicit and explicit evaluations of sexual aggression play a
causal role in sexually aggressive behavior.
In addition to bettering our understanding of the role
evaluations may play in sexual aggression, we also learned that the pattern of
relationships between evaluations and sexual aggression was consistent for
samples of students and community men. A
common critique of research on sexual aggression conducted with student samples
is that the results may not generalize to other samples of men (i.e., community
or incarcerated samples). The results reported above suggest that this may not
be the case for research exploring the relationship between evaluations of
sexual aggression and sexually aggressive behavior. Next we would like to try
to replicate these findings with incarcerated samples of men with convictions
for sexual aggression against adults to determine if research conducted with
students and community men could also generalize to this population.
of these studies are just the first step in understanding the relationship between
evaluations and sexual offending. These studies need to be replicated and
expanded on in research using different samples (students, community men, men
in the criminal justice system), validated measures of evaluations, and
different research designs (e.g., experimental, longitudinal, etc.). If future research finds evaluations predict sexually aggressive behavior
against adults, that evaluations of sexual aggression can change, and that
change is associated with changes in sexually aggressive behavior, then
evaluations of sexual aggression would be an important target in risk
assessment and treatment.
I would like to thank ATSA for the
Pre-Doctoral Research Grant that funded my doctoral dissertation research. To
date, this research is reported in Hermann, Nunes, and Maimone (2016) and
Hermann and Nunes (2016). This research was also facilitated by funding from
the Social Sciences and Humanities Research Council of Canada. The views expressed are those of the
authors and not necessarily those of the Ontario Ministry of Community Safety
and Correctional Services.
Albarracín, D., Zanna, M.
P., Johnson, B. T., & Kumkale, G. T. (2005). Attitudes: Introduction and
scope. In D. Albarracín, M. P. Zanna, & B. T. Johnson (Eds.), The Handbook of Attitudes(pp. 3-19). New York, NY:
Lawrence Erlbaum Associates.
Ajzen, I. (1991). The Theory of Planned
Behavior and Human Decision Processes, 50, 179-211. doi
(2001). Nature and
operation of attitudes. Annual Review of Psychology, 52, 27-58. doi: 10.1146/annurev.psych.52.1.27
Gawronski, B., & Bodenhausen, G. V.
(2007). Unraveling the processes underlying evaluation: Attitudes from the
perspective of the APE model. Social Cognition, 25, 687-717. doi: 10.1521/soco.2007.25.5.687
Glasman, L. R., & Albarracín, D.
(2006). Forming attitudes that predict future behavior: A meta analysis of the
attitude-behavior relation. Psychological Bulletin, 132, 778-822. doi:
Greenwald, A. G., & Farnham, S. D.
(2000). Using the Implicit Association Test to measure self- esteem and self-concept.Journal of Personality and
Social Psychology, 79, 1022-1038.
Hermann, C. A. & Nunes, K. L. (2016). Implicit
and explicit evaluations of sexual aggression predict subsequent sexually
aggressive behavior in a sample of community men. Sexual Abuse: A Journal of Research and Treatment. Advance online publication. doi: 10.1177/1079063216682952
C. A., Nunes, K. L., & Maimone, S. (2016). Examining implicit and explicit
evaluations of sexual aggression and sexually aggressive behavior in men
recruited online. Sexual Abuse: A Journal
of Research and Treatment. Advance online
publication. doi: 10.1177/1079063216681560
Kraus, S. J. (1995).
Attitudes and the prediction of behavior: A meta-analysis of the empirical literature.Personality and
Social Psychology Bulletin, 21, 58-75. doi: 10.1177/0146167295211007
Nosek, B. A., & Smyth, F. L.
(2007). A multitrait-multimethod validation of the Implicit Association Test:
Implicit and explicit attitudes are related but distinct constructs. Experimental Psychology, 54, 14-29. doi 10.1027/1618-318.104.22.168
Nunes, K. L., Hermann, C. A., &
Ratcliffe, K. (2013). Implicit and explicit attitudes towards rape are
associated with sexual aggression. Journal of Interpersonal violence, 28, 2657- 2675. doi: 10.1177/0886260513487995
K. L., Hermann, C. A., White, K., Pettersen, C., & Bumby, K. (2016).
Attitude may be everything, but is everything an attitude? Cognitive
distortions may not be evaluations towards rape. Sexual
Abuse: A Journal of Research and Treatment. Advance
online publication. doi: 10.1177/1079063215625489
use evaluationthroughout to refer to attitude as defined in the social psychological literature, in which the
essential feature of attitudes is evaluation; this is intended to distinguish it from the use of attitude in the
correctional/forensic/criminological literature, which usually seems to reflect a much
broader lay definition (Nunes et al., 2013; Nunes, Hermann et