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Chapter 3

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Department
Psychology
Course
Psychology 2075
Professor
William Fisher
Semester
Winter

Description
Chapter 3: Sex Research CHAPTER OVERVIEW - Knowledge of the major methods that have been used in sex research and of the problems and merits associated with each is necessary for understanding and evaluating sex research - Sex research can use quantitative or qualitative methods - Three [3] crucial methodological issues in sex research are: o Sampling. Random samples or probability samples are best but are difficult to obtain because some people refuse to participate o The accuracy of self-reports. Much sex research relies on people’s reports of their own sexual behaviour. Research shows that these self-reports are generally accurate, but they can also be distorted in several ways such as purposeful distortion, faulty memory, and difficulty estimating o Ethical issues. Sex researchers, like all researchers collecting data bound by the rules of informed consent protection from harm, and justice - Web-based surveys involve sex researchers collecting data online, which offer new opportunities for sex research - Statistical concepts that are important for understanding reports of sex research include average, mean, median, mode, variability, incidence, frequency, and correlation - No major national sex surveys have been conducted in Canada o However, there are two [2] large scale U.S. surveys of sexual behaviour: Kinsey’s interview study and the recent NHSLS (which was based on probability sampling) o Similar surveys have been conducted in the UK and Australia o The Canada Youth, Sexual Health, and HIV/AIDS Study assessed adolescent sexuality across Canada o Canadian studies of special populations include a survey of First Nations peoples headed by Myers - Media content analysis involves a set of scientific procedures use to make valid inferences about some aspects of the media (such as the sexuality in prime-time TV programs or the content of advice columns) - Laboratory studies use direct observation of sexual behaviour (i.e., Masters and Johnson’s research) - Qualitative methods yield results that are conveyed not in numbers but in words and aim at an in-depth description of people in their natural environment from their own perspective - Participant-observer studies are one kind of qualitative method o The scientist becomes part of the community to be studied, and makes observations from inside the community - Experiments are a type of research in which one variable (the independent variable) is manipulated so that the researcher can study the effects on the dependent variable Issues in Sex research - Sex research can be geared toward creating basic knowledge and understanding - Research can be directed toward enhancing our understanding in order to influence sexual behaviour - Research can be geared toward public policy - Sex research varies in terms of the following: o Whether they rely on people’s self-reports of their sexual behaviour or whether the scientist observes directly o Whether large numbers of people are studied (surveys) or whether a small number/just a single individual is studied (in laboratory studies, qualitative research, or case studies) o Whether the studies are conducted in the laboratory or in the field o Whether sexual behaviour is studied simply as it occurs naturally or whether some attempt is made to manipulate it experimentally - Important because the mass media are often as enthusiastic in their reporting of poor-quality research as they are in reporting of high-quality research Sampling (has been a serious problem in sex research) - First step in conducting research is identifying the appropriate population and then take a sample from it - Population – group of people a researcher wants to study and make inferences about - Sample – a part of the population - Probability sampling – a method of sampling in research in which each member of the population has a known probability of being included in the sample o Way of obtaining a representative sample - Random sampling – an excellent method of sampling in research, in which each member of the population has an equal chance of being included in the sample o Simplest form of probability sampling - Stratified random sampling – a method of sampling in which the population is divided into groups and then random sampling occurs in each group o Results obtained from that sample may not be true of all adolescents if sample consists of only adolescents with certain characteristics - Sampling proceeds in three [3] phases: o population identified; o method for obtaining sample is adopted; o people in sample contacted and asked to participate - Problem of refusal or non-response – the problem that some people will refuse to participate in a sex survey, thus making it difficult to have a random sample (and great probability same is ruined) - Volunteer bias – a bias in the results of sex surveys that arises when some people refuse to participate, so that those who are in the sample are volunteers who may in some ways differ from those who refused to participate (contain distortions) o Problem wouldn’t be that great if those who refused to participate were identical in their sexual behaviour to those who participated - Evidence that volunteers who participate in sex research hold more permissive attitudes about sex and are more sexually experienced than those who don’t participate (women also less likely to volunteer) - Convenience sample – a sample chosen in a haphazard manner relative to the population of interest. Not a random or probability sample o Don’t give a very good picture of what is going on in the general population Accuracy of Self-reports of Sexual Behaviour Purposeful Distortion – purposely giving false information in a survey o Enlargement – exaggeration of sexual activity o Concealment – minimization of their sexual activity o People distort responses based on social desirability Social desirability – the tendency to distort answers to a survey in the direction perceived to be more acceptable - Stop distortion by telling participants that study will be used for scientific purposes so their reports must be as accurate as possible; responses will be anonymous - Three [3] factors that cause self-reports to be inaccurate: memory, difficulties with estimates, interpretation of question asked Memory - Difficult for people to remember such facts accurately (use diary method where people record their behaviour to bypass this) Difficulties with Estimates - Difficult to estimate time to begin with, and even more difficult to do so when engaged in an absorbing activity Interpreting the Question - Participants definitions of sexual terms may be different Evidence on the Reliability of Self-Reports Test-retest reliability – a method for testing whether self-reports are reliable or accurate; participants are interviewed (or given a questionnaire) and then interviewed a second time some time later to determine whether their answers are the same both times (correlation between answers measures reliability – 1.0 = 100% reliable) Interviews vs. Questionnaires - Three [3] types of methods of collecting data: face-to-face interview, phone interviews, written questionnaires - Face-to-face interviews build more rapport and trust better than over a telephone - Witten questionnaires were more likely to be reported on riskier sexual behaviours than face-to-face interviews - Better to use both face-to-face interviews combined with a written questionnaire during the interview to tap into sensitive info - Computer-assisted self-interview method (CASI) – a method of data collection in which the respondent fills out questionnaires on a computer. Headphones and a soundtrack reading the questions can be added for young children or poor readers o Results suggest CASI to produce more honest responses, but don’t know if responses are exaggerated Web-Based Surveys - Can recruit much larger samples than interviews/questionnaires which open up exciting possibilities for cross- cultural research - Particular advantages for studying special populations defined by their sexual behaviour, particularly if the behaviour is taboo - Web methods can access these populations that had previously been studied very little and can yield a much wider sample - Have ability to eliminate extraneous influences on responding but also are susceptible to self-reports and sabotage Self-Reports vs. Direct Observations - Problem with self-reports is inaccuracy (enlargement or concealment) meanwhile direct observations are accurate - Problem with direct observations is the results obtained from the unusual group of volunteers who would be willing to do this might not be generalizable to the rest of the population Extraneous Factors (i.e., gender, race, age of the interviewer, wording of material/content) Ethical Issues - Cardinal ethical principle is respect for human dignity (leads to several other ethical principles) Free and Informed Consent – an ethical principle in research, in which people have a right to be informed, before participating, of what they will be asked to do in the research o Principle adopted in 1970s Protection from Harm - Minimize the amount of physical and psychological stress to participants (i.e., if investigator must shock participants during a study should have a very good reason for it) Justice Justice principle – an ethical principle in research which holds that the risks of participation should be distributed fairly across groups in society, as should the benefits Balancing Harms and Benefits Harms-benefits analysis – an approach to analyzing the ethics of a research study, based on weighing the harms of the research (such as stress to subjects) against the benefits of the research (gaining the knowledge about human sexuality) o Harms-benefits analysis suggest whether the research was ethical, even though their participants might have been temporarily stressed by it o In all research the potential harms to the participants should be weighed against the benefits that accrue to society from being informed about this aspect of sexual behaviour Some Statistical Concepts Average Mean – the average of respondents’ scores calculated by adding the scores and dividing by the number of people Median – the middle score Mode – the most frequent score Variability (different subjects to compare to) Average vs. Normal (don’t confuse average with normal; i.e., undersexed/oversexed compared to average) Incidence vs. Frequency Incidence – the percentage of people giving a particular response Frequency – how often a person does something - Cumulative incidence – refers to the percentage of people who have engaged in that behaviour before a certain age o Graphs of cumulative incidence always begin in the lower left-hand corner and move toward the upper right corner Correlation – a number that measures the relationship between two variables - Can have positive/negative correlation (range between +1.0 and -1.0) The Major Sex Surveys (best known study is by Alfred Kinsey [1930s-1940s]) The Kinsey Report The Sample - Goal to simply collect sex histories from as wide a variety of people as possible (but didn’t use probability sampling) - Overrepresentation of students, young and educated people; underrepresented people were minorities and lower-class The Interviews - His face-to-face interviewing techniques are highly regarded (more than 50% of interviews conducted by Kinsey himself; and also skilfully phrasing questions in language that was easily understood; developed # of methods for cross-checking a person’s report so that false information would be detected) - Took strict precautions to ensure that responses were anonymous and that they remained anonymous (contin
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