Reading the right sexual cues

October 26, 2016

Both college men and women focus primarily on a photographed woman's nonverbal emotional cues when making snap decisions about whether she is expressing sexual interest at a particular moment in time. But their judgments also are based to a large degree on how attractive she is and the provocativeness of her attire. Physical attractiveness plays a much larger role in how college men than women make these quick judgments. Female students in turn tend to pick up more than men on clothing style and the woman's emotional cues. This is according to a study1 in the journal Psychonomic Bulletin & Review, published by Springer. Around 500 students were asked to give their first impressions about the current sexual interest of women in a series of photographs.

While quick assessments about sexual cues are part of the dating game, these are easily misinterpreted and in extreme cases may play a role in unwanted sexual advances and even rape. Through cognitive training, male students can however be taught how to "read" the right sexual cues better, says lead author Teresa Treat of the University of Iowa in the US.

The study was conducted among 276 female and 220 male college students to assess how they perceive women's momentary cues of possible sexual interest. Participants were presented with photographs of different women and had to express their first thoughts on whether the women showed sexual interest or not. Half of the participants received instructions beforehand on certain nonverbal emotional cues (such as body language or facial expressions) that help to gauge such matters better. All participants also completed an assessment about their attitudes towards rape.

The findings looked different among students who held more rape-supportive attitudes (as determined by their results from the assessment). These attitudes are hostile to rape victims, including false beliefs about rape and rapists, for example women enjoy sexual violence. Both males and females in this group, relative to their peers, relied less on the photographed women's emotional cues and more on their attire and their attractiveness. This is problematic because appearance-related cues such as clothing and physical beauty are less accurate nonverbal signals of a woman's current (or momentary) sexual interest in a particular man than the woman's nonverbal emotional cues.

It was found that the students who received instruction on non-verbal cues before assessing the photographs were more likely to note emotional cues than aspects such as clothing and physical beauty when making their judgments. Receiving such guidelines also shifted the focus of students who held more supportive attitudes towards rape.

"The current work significantly advances our understanding of the operation and malleability of sexual-perception processes and their links to rape-supportive attitudes among both male and female college students," says Treat, who believes that cognitive training, including feedback on the accuracy of judgments, ultimately may play a useful role as part of sexual-assault prevention efforts.

Such training could also include aspects about the types of social settings associated with sexual advances, such as bars, house parties or in a bedroom rather than sidewalks, classes or office spaces. This is according to the findings of a recent study2 in Springer's journal Cognitive Research: Principles and Implications of which Treat was also the lead author.
-end-
References:
1. Treat, T. A. et al. (2016). Effects of Gender, Rape-Supportive Attitudes, and Explicit Instruction on Perceptions of Women's Momentary Sexual Interest, Psychonomic Bulletin & Review. DOI: 10.3758/s13423-016-1176-5
2. Treat, T.A. et al. (2016). Men's perceptions of women's sexual interest: Effects of environmental context, sexual attitudes, and women's characteristics, Cognitive Research: Principles and Implication. DOI: 10.1186/s41235-016-0009-4

Springer

Related Cognitive Training Articles from Brightsurf:

Cognitive flexibility training manages responses to social conflict
Scientists at the WRAIR and ARL developed a computer-based training to reduce anger, reactive aggression and hostile attribution bias--the tendency to attribute hostile intent to the actions of others--in ambiguous social conflict situations.

From virtual to reality! Virtual training improves physical and cognitive functions
Researchers at the Smart-Aging Research Center (IDAC) at Tohoku University have developed an innovative training protocol that, utilizing immersive virtual reality (IVR), leads to real physical and cognitive benefits.

Traditional strength training vs jump training for physically inactive young adults
The aim of this study was to compare the effects of 4-weeks of Traditional Resistance Training versus Plyometric Jump Training programs on the muscular fitness of sedentary and physically inactive participants.

The retention effect of training
Company training increases the loyalty of its employees. Loyalty also increases if the training improves the employees' chances on the labour market.

Training the mind in resilience
Two new studies from University of Miami researchers found that offering mindfulness training in high-demand settings bolsters attention and resilience.

Memory training builds upon strategy use
Researchers from Åbo Akademi University, Finland, and Umeå University, Sweden, have for the first time obtained clear evidence of the important role strategies have in memory training.

Training trials
First national study shows cutting residents' training hours has not resulted in lower performance for new doctors.

Women face more cognitive issues after brain tumor radiation women face more cognitive issues after
Young women who undergo radiation therapy to treat a pediatric brain tumor are more likely to suffer from long-term cognitive impairment than male survivors, according to a study by Georgia State University researchers.

New cognitive training game to improve driving skills among the elderly
Researchers at Tohoku University have developed a new cognitive training game aimed at improving road safety among elderly drivers.

Research underscores value of cognitive training for adults with mild cognitive impairment
Researchers at the Center for BrainHealth®, part of The University of Texas at Dallas, combined two non-pharmacological interventions for adults with Mild Cognitive Impairment (MCI): eight sessions of Strategic Memory Advanced Reasoning Training (SMART), a cognitive training program shown to improve reasoning and ability to extract bottom-line messages from complex information; and Transcranial Direct Current Stimulation (tDCS) over the left frontal region, associated with cognitive control and memory recovery success in people with Alzheimer's.

Read More: Cognitive Training News and Cognitive Training Current Events
Brightsurf.com is a participant in the Amazon Services LLC Associates Program, an affiliate advertising program designed to provide a means for sites to earn advertising fees by advertising and linking to Amazon.com.