Current Projects

Listed below are the current projects we are pursuing in the CRRAIV Lab. If you would like to apply to join the lab, please fill out this application

Relationship between physiological responses and participant self-report on bystander intention to intervene

Sexual assault is a serious issue affecting both men and women. One of the most effective ways we have found to decrease sexual assaults on campus is to increase bystander intervention—or by increasing the actions of concerned witnesses. However, many students do not know how to recognize a sexual assault, have the skills to intervene, or have the confidence to feel they can make a difference.  Messman-Moore and Brown (2006) found risk perception to be a strong predictor of victimization in a study of college women utilizing a series of surveys, which included a written vignette of a hypothetical social experience designed to assess risk perception. Hetzel-Riggin & Roby (2012) found a similar finding in men, although women showed better risk perception in a sexual assault scenario than men. However, no one has used this paradigm to assess risk perception in potential bystanders. In a previous study from our laboratory, we examined self-reported emotional responses and likely actions to a situation in which the participant could act as a bystander in a sexual assault scenario. We found that participants felt more uncomfortable as the scenario progressed, but that the feelings of uncomfortableness were not linear. In addition, those who felt very uncomfortable early in the scenario were likely to leave the situation before it became risky. Participants were more likely to intervene directly or by calling for assistance when the risk to the victim became more obvious, but many participants reported feeling uncomfortable but ignoring the situation during the more ambiguous parts of the scenario. Participants who were confident in their ability to act as a bystander and saw less risk in this behavior were more likely to act earlier in the scenario. Bystander intervention has been shown in a number of studies to be an effective deterrent to sexual assault on college campuses. Yet little laboratory research has been conducted on these procedures. We also have little knowledge of the factors that may prohibit a person from acting as a bystander in the moment. While some hypothesized reasons include lack of self-efficacy, lack of belief in the effectiveness of bystander intervention, high levels of rape myth acceptance, personal history of sexual assault, and personality and mental health issues, little research has examined the effects of these variables experimentally. In addition, no study to date has examined physiological responses to witnessing potential sexual assault situations to examine arousal or orientation responses to threat. The purpose of this study is to examine correlates of risk perception, intent to intervene, physiological responses, and relationship to scene participants in a sample of college students when they are faced with a situation in which they are seeing someone at risk for sexual assault. 

Logical Reasoning and Decision Making: Relationships with Interpersonal Tendencies and Assertiveness

Previous research has shown that conditional reasoning, or reasoning that is influenced by the tendency to justify decisions based on our beliefs rather than facts, is a good way to examine personality factors. Conditional reasoning as a measurement tool has primarily been used in the business world, and we believe that it would be a useful tool to examine certain negative personality characteristics (such as aggression, avoidance, and narcissism) in a more clinical arena. One concern of many of the instruments currently used in the interpersonal violence literature is that the questions are very face valid and therefore susceptible to faking (Milner, 1994). It may be that the conditional reasoning task could serve as a proxy for the assessment of interpersonal violence perpetration risk, as the potential situations allow for implicit tendencies to show (James, 2004).  Given the strong face validity of most aggression tendencies measures, using an aggression proxy (such as a conditional reasoning task) could allow for a more accurate assessment of interpersonal violence tendencies. The purpose of this study is to examine how one’s logical reasoning and decision-making abilities are associated with personality traits and views on interpersonal relationships and scenarios. More specifically, we were interested in how aggressive and narcissistic tendencies are associated with decisions and beliefs about dating and sexual violence. We specifically are looking at how conditional reasoning for aggression is related to more face valid assessments of narcissism and aggression, particularly as they relate to beliefs and choices about intimate partner violence. We are also interested in seeing if trait-like aggression and narcissism are related to these sexual violence-specific attitudes, beliefs, and behaviors. This study is the first in a line that will allow us to see the relationships among the different types of violence myths and decisions. 

Effects of Priming Power on Attitudes, Beliefs, and Judgments about Sexual Assault

Sexual assault is a crime of power, and previous research has shown that the feeling of being in power increases a person’s acceptance of sexually harassing behavior and humor. Research has also indicated that being a part of teams or organizations that value power (sports teams, fraternities, etc.) is associated with heightened sexually aggressive behavior. However, most research on the relationship between power and sexual assault has been correlational and ancedotal. One factor associated with increased sexual violence is endorsement of rape myths. Rape myths are schema that are supportive of a culture in which rape is more acceptable or understandable given certain contextual variables. Given that increased rape myth acceptance has been associated with feelings and affiliation with power, it may be that we can decrease rape myth acceptance by priming someone to feel less power. Previous research has suggested that we can manipulate contextual variables to reduce blame and aggression, so it is likely that we can decrease rape myth acceptance and victim blaming by also manipulating contextual variables (in this case, feelings of power). The purpose of this research project is to determine whether feeling powerful or powerless affects a person’s rape myth acceptance and decisions about what is or is not a sexual assault. We hypothesize that by manipulating power (through a narrative manipulation) we can also manipulate endorsement of rape myths and blame attribution in sexual assault scenarios.