The Kinsey Institute Student Research Grant Program
2010 Grant Recipients
Lindsay Briggs, Indiana University, Department of Applied Health Science, and Center for Sexual Health Promotion
Kathryn Macapagal, Indiana University
Student Research Abstracts
Lindsay Briggs, Indiana University, Department of Applied Health Science and Center for Sexual Health Promotion
Topic: Sexual Behavior in Nigeria: A Grounded Theory & Community Based Participatory Research Approach
HIV continues to be a public health concern in Southern Nigeria. Current prevention programs are built on a foundation of Western values around sexuality that hold in high regard the ideals of abstinence, monogamy, and fidelity. Steady rates of HIV infection across Africa demonstrate that current HIV prevention programming is still not reaching wide-spread acceptance and that further research must go beyond studying simple incidence of sexual behaviors and examine the socio-cultural factors that contribute to HIV-risk behaviors. In order to effectively reduce HIV rates we first must understand the social and cultural context of sexual behaviors that may contribute to infection. This innovative research study will use a hybrid qualitative methodology approach that combines grounded theory and community based participatory research (CBPR) to investigate how participants understand these Western values in their social context and how this understanding informs and shapes individual's sexual behaviors and sexual decision making in relationships. This research seeks to understand the cultural context of sexual behavior in Southern Nigeria, how culture and public health messaging impacts sexual decision making, and look at the less well understood behaviors that current HIV prevention interventions target. This study will contribute to a more complex understanding of the social context of sexual behavior and sexual decision making in Southern Nigeria as well as better inform future HIV prevention programs to more effectively reduce HIV rates.
Lelia Chilarescu, Indiana University, Department of Telecommunications
Topic: Male Sexual Orientation and Processing of Same- and Opposite-Sex Stimuli
This research study investigates how the cognitive and affective mechanisms involved in information processing influence men's sexual responses and preference for same- and opposite-sex erotic stimuli. By pursuing the framework of information processing, it focuses on the mechanisms that guide mental resources towards the processing of relevant and goal-congruent stimuli. Barlow (1986) presented a theoretical model in which he proposes that initial affective reactions determine the allocation of attention to sexual stimuli, setting the stage for response or nonresponse. This model offers an interesting and valuable perspective to understanding sexual arousal in men, which has repeatedly been found to be congruent with their self-reported sexual orientation - in contrast to women, where such 'target specificity' has not been found. Consistent with Barlow's model, it can be hypothesized that differences in how heterosexual and homosexual men respond to same- versus opposite-sex stimuli result from differences in their attention, and that these differences originate in their initial affective reaction towards the stimuli. The current study will explore the role of attention in sexual responses of self-identified heterosexual and homosexual men in two ways: it will examine men's spontaneous tendencies to pay attention to or avoid specific types of sexual cues, and it will direct their attention to such cues (e.g., the genitals of other men) and assess their sexual and affective responses, through the use of psychophysiological methods.
Andrew Hendrickson, Indiana University, Department of Psychological and Brain Sciences
Topic: Agent-Based Cognitive Modeling of Young Womens' Sexual Partner Selection and Related Health Outcomes
Contemporary research has begun to understand the romantic and sexual nature of the relationships of adolescents and young adults, but the cognitive factors associated with the choice of a particular sexual partner (“mate”) remain unclear. Yet these cognitive factors are crucial for understanding the profound health consequences (including sexually-transmitted diseases and pregnancy) of these choices. The specific aim of this project is to generate agent-based models (ABMs) of cognitive mate search based on previously collected data from the Young Women’s Project (YWP). The YWP enrolled 387 adolescent women who provided daily diaries for up to 8 consecutive years, including the traits desired in an ideal mate and the encounters with real mates. This allows us to link the difference between ideal and actual mate characteristics with specific sexual and contraceptive behaviors with that mate, as well as diseases or pregnancy associated with that partnership. Computational models will be created to predict each individual’s mate choice decisions, both the relationships they start and the risks they will take in those relationships (e.g. protected vs. unprotected sex) based on ideal mate characteristics, previous relationship history, and the current existing relationships. We will test a variety of information-accumulation and decision-making strategies proposed in the literature, and look for significant individual differences in the importance of specific factors and how they change over time. The correlations we find between these individual differences in search/decision style and risky health outcomes, including the timing and amount of unprotected sex and the number of simultaneous partners, may lead to improvements in the early identification of risky behavior patterns.
Hollie Fuhrmann, University of South Florida, Departments of Anthropology, and Family & Community Health
Topic: Young Women’s Perspectives of Emergency Contraception as a Strategy for Preventing Unintended Pregnancy
In the United States (U.S.), nearly half of all pregnancies are unintended. Emergency contraception (EC), a post-coital contraceptive method, has the potential to significantly reduce rates of unintended pregnancy (UIP). Plan B is a dedicated EC product that reduces the risk of UIP by 89% when taken within 72 hours of vaginal intercourse. In August 2006, after one of the longest and most controversial review processes, the U.S. Food and Drug Administration approved Plan B as an over-the-counter medication for consumers aged 18 and older. Despite EC’s increased availability, use remains low. Most studies have focused on measuring women’s knowledge regarding EC to predict use; however, increased knowledge does not consistently predict use. Other studies have examined barriers to accessing EC, including state-level policies and pharmacists’ refusals to stock and dispense EC. Meanings attributed to UIP and EC as a preventative technology are a less examined piece of the EC puzzle. Since the highest rates of UIP occur among young women, this study will examine young women’s perspectives of EC as a strategy for preventing UIP. An interdisciplinary, mixed methods approach, specifically an online survey and in-depth interviews with women aged 18-24 currently enrolled at a Southeastern university, will be employed to meet the following study aims: 1) describe young women’s perspectives of UIP; 2) describe young women’s perspectives of EC, particularly since Plan B’s recent shift to over-the-counter status for consumers aged 17 and older; and, 3) describe how young women incorporate EC into their strategies for preventing UIP.
Christina Larson, University of California at Los Angeles, Department of Psychology
Topic: Major Histocompatibility Genes, Sexual Satisfaction and Relationship Compatibility
Romantic relationships are a central component of adult life, and healthy relationships confer a number of mental and physical health benefits. Accordingly, there has been a great deal of research exploring what makes relationships rewarding and enduring. Relationship researchers have discovered a host of factors that affect relationship satisfaction and stability. Sexual satisfaction is one factor associated with global relationship satisfaction. Additionally, there is evidence that sexual satisfaction is affected by within-couple genetic compatibility. However, no previous research has tied these two lines of research together to examine the influence of within-couple genetic compatibility on relationship quality. This proposed research will be the first to address this topic, extending previous research investigating genetic-based preferences to examine the effect of genetic compatibility on relationship satisfaction and longevity, and how sexual satisfaction mediates this association. Additionally, my research will address whether hormonal contraceptives alter this relationship.
Julia Mackaronis, University of Utah, Department of Psychology
Topic: The Effect of Sexual Orientation and Masculinity-Femininity on Perceived Sexual Appeal
The question of to whom we are most sexually attracted is of perennial interest in contemporary psychology. One important, yet unanswered, question is if gay men and heterosexual women are attracted to similar types of men, or if lesbians and straight men are attracted to similar types of women. The proposed study is designed to provide information on the interplay of observer gender, sexual orientation, and masculinity-femininity, in addition to the perceived masculinity-femininity of others—and the relative importance of each factor—in how we perceive others’ sexual appeal. Participants will include both men and women, with half of each group self-identified as homosexual and half as heterosexual, ages 18 to 30. Each will view 34 photographs of partially clothed men or women. Half of the photographs will be from sources marketed towards a primarily heterosexual audience (e.g., Sports Illustrated), while the other half will be from sources aimed primarily towards a non-heterosexual audience (e.g., Freshmen magazine). Participants will rate how sexually appealing and how masculine or feminine they found the person in the photograph, and describe what they found most and least sexually appealing about each photograph. Participants will also rate how masculine or feminine they consider themselves. The data will be analyzed using hierarchical linear modeling, incorporating both between-subjects factors (e.g., gender and orientation) and within-subjects factors (e.g., the sources of the photographs and the perceived masculinity-femininity of those photographs) into a model of the effect of the interaction of these factors on perceived sexual appeal.
Kathryn Macapagal, Indiana University: The Impact of Visual Attention and Safer-Sex Schemas on Sexual Decision Making
Sonya Satinsky, Indiana University: A Mixed-Methods Exploration of the Connection between Bodily and Sexual Self-Perception in Women
Benjamin Graham, DePaul University: Social Stigma and Psychological Sense of Community within BDSM Experience
Heather Kettrey, Vanderbilt University: Sexual Scripts, the Good/Bad Girl Dichotomy, and Adolescent Sexual Health
2009 Kinsey Institute Student Research Grant Recipients
2007 & 2008 Kinsey Institute Student Grants-in-Aid Recipients
2006 Kinsey Institute Student Grants-in-Aid Recipients
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