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Research Methods in Sexuality Research. Uniqueness of Sexuality Research. Role of theory What can be observed? Recorded? Sensitive nature of sexuality research - data collection method could profoundly affect results What role does culture play? Diversity? What does data mean?

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Research methods in sexuality research

Research Methods in Sexuality Research


Uniqueness of sexuality research
Uniqueness of Sexuality Research

  • Role of theory

  • What can be observed? Recorded?

  • Sensitive nature of sexuality research - data collection method could profoundly affect results

  • What role does culture play? Diversity?

  • What does data mean?

  • What ethical factors need to be considered?


Participant selection
Participant Selection

  • Sexually Active?

    • Frequency of sexual activity

    • Type of sexual activity

    • Level of commitment

    • Sexual orientation


Participant selection1
Participant Selection

  • Generalizability

    • Who volunteers for sexuality studies?

    • What characteristics might they have that differ from those who don’t volunteer?

    • Does financial compensation affect who volunteers?


Data collection
Data Collection

  • Participant comfort:

    • Data collection confidential?

    • Data collection anonymous?

    • Researcher sensitive to participants feelings, concerns?

      • Special population? (e.g., sexual abuse, dysfunction)

      • Same sex researcher preferable

      • appearance of researcher


Data collection1
Data Collection

  • Human Studies

    • Self-report measures

    • Direct observation/measurement

    • Focus Groups

  • Animal Studies


Data collection2
Data Collection

  • Self-report measures (survey, interview)

    • Is the measure validated?

      • On the population you are assessing?

      • Is the measure up to date?

    • Is the measure reliable?


Data collection3
Data Collection

  • Self-report measures

    • Pros:

      • Able to assess wide range of sexual issues (e.g., behaviors, beliefs, fantasies)

      • Not invasive


Data collection4
Data Collection

  • Self-report measures

    • Cons:

      • selection/sampling bias

      • self-report bias:

        • Purposeful Distortion - Social Desirability: restricted by persons willingness to self-disclose (e.g., “I have had anal sex.”)

        • affected by persons subjective interpretation

          (e.g., “I have sexual fantasies at least once a day.” - what constitutes a sexual fantasy?)

        • Accuracy of memory

        • Ability to estimate

      • correlational - no cause and effect (correlation b/w depression & low desire)


Data collection5
Data Collection

  • Direct observation

    • at home or in a laboratory

    • participant, laboratory observations, animal research

    • observer bias?


Data collection6
Data Collection

  • Direct observation

    • Reliability: would we get the same result if we observed it again?

    • Generalizability: ecological validity

    • Determining categories: no overlap, all areas covered

    • Observer role: is the participant or researcher the observer?

    • Ethical issues


Data collection7
Data Collection

  • Direct observation: at home

    • example:

      • daily dairy

      • record experiences after sexual activity (e.g., intensity of orgasm)

    • pros: more natural, more generalizable, greater ecological validity

    • cons: difficult to control variables (e.g., time spent in foreplay)


Data collection8
Data Collection

  • Dairies

    • structured vs. unstructured

    • Pros:

      • reduces memory biases: ability to record behavior/feeling immediately

    • Cons:

      • attrition due to amount of time needed

      • failure to complete the diary as instructed (e.g., within time limit)


Data collection9
Data Collection

  • Direct Observation: in the laboratory

    • two rooms: one for subject, one for experimenter

      • privacy

      • minimize influence of sounds/noises

      • permits training

      • standardization of study situation - experimenters behavior could affect outcome

    • stimulus:

      • erotica that is designed for male vs. female audience

        • auditory? Visual?

        • Acceptable sexual behaviors?

        • characteristics of erotica (e.g., women with plastic surgery?)

      • standardization of erotica


Data collection10
Data Collection

  • Direct observation: in the laboratory

    • Pros: able to obtain direct measures of sexual behavior (e.g., sexual arousal, orgasm)

    • Cons: invasive, not generalizable, less ecological validity, subject selection bias


Data collection11
Data Collection

  • Psychophysiological data: Sexual Arousal

    • Men

      • air volumetric plethysmograph

      • strain gauge

      • Rigiscan Plus monitor - penile circumference and rigidity



Data collection12
Data Collection

  • Psychophysiological data: Sexual Arousal

    • Women:

      • vaginal photoplethysmograph

        • vaginal pulse amplitude (VPA)

        • vaginal blood volume (VBV)

      • labial temperature

      • changes in oxygen pressure



Data collection13
Data Collection

  • Psychophysical data: orgasm

    • Men & Women

    • latency to orgasm

    • measure muscular contractions


Data collection14
Data Collection

  • Focus Groups

    • exploratory research (e.g., developing questionnaires)

    • to explore areas not amenable to direct observation

    • to gain understanding of a group with which there is relatively little information


Data collection15
Data Collection

  • Animal studies

    • Pros: able to conduct experiments - manipulate variables

      • conduct studies that would be unethical in humans

      • conduct studies that would be logistically difficult in humans

      • conduct studies that would be expensive in humans

      • test hypotheses in animals prior to humans

    • Cons: generalizability to humans

      • Is the animal physiology similar?

      • Is the animal behavior comprable? (e.g., lordosis)


Characteristics of sex research participants
Characteristics of Sex Research Participants

  • Are people willing to volunteer for sexuality studies?

    Conclusion: more invasive the study, fewer volunteers (Wolchik et al.)

  • What is the difference between those who do/do not volunteer for an intrusive study?

    Conclusion: different in sex-related personality (e.g., sex guilt) but not different in general personality (e.g., extraversion, lying) (Farkas, Sine, & Evans)


Characteristics of research participants
Characteristics of Research Participants

% Volunteered

MenWomen

film 50% 49%

subjective arousal 57% 44%

physiological arousal - forehead 66% 41%

physiological arousal - clothed lap 67% 38%

physiological arousal - unclothed 30% 13%

genital gage 26% 13%

(Wolchik)


Interpreting research results
Interpreting Research Results

  • Sampling Considerations

    • Is a significant proportion of the population absent?

    • Were the participants selected based on sexual characteristics?

    • Did any subjects withdraw from the study? What characteristics might they have that differ from those who did not withdraw?

    • Was there any measurement error such that the true mean and the sample mean might differ?


Interpreting research results1
Interpreting Research Results

  • Threats to interpretation:

    • researchers’ beliefs, measurement issues, statistical results (statistical vs meaningful differences)

    • misunderstanding the mean

      • the degree to which it applies to individuals (e.g., 28 day menstrual cycle)

      • relative importance of being average (e.g., frequency of sexual activity vs. sexual compatibility and satisfaction

    • poor operational definitions (e.g., measuring attempted vs. completed sexual assault)


Think of the six women closest to you now guess which one will be raped this year

Think of the six women closest to you. Now guess which one will be raped this year.


Interpreting research results2
Interpreting Research Results

  • Threats to interpretation:

    • researchers’ beliefs, measurement issues, statistical results (statistical vs meaningful differences)

    • misunderstanding the mean

      • the degree to which it applies to individuals (e.g., 28 day menstrual cycle)

      • relative importance of being average (e.g., frequency of sexual activity vs. sexual compatibility and satisfaction

    • poor operational definitions (e.g., measuring attempted vs. completed sexual assault)

    • researchers’ language (e.g., “Have you had sex when you didn’t want to because a man gave you alcohol or drugs?” regret vs. rape?)

    • consider assumptions (e.g., woman as victims of sexual assault - what about men?)

  • Interpret results at a societal level


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