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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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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)
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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