Wyer, Bodehausen and Gorman. Final paper in the trace of Srull & Wyer 1979

The final paper in this early sampling that directly look at social priming is one on Rape judgment by Wyer, Bodenhausen and Gorman. “Cognitive Mediators of Reactions to Rape”

This is another complex design with not many participants. As I mentioned on twitter, lots of sparsely populated cells.

They do mention that they consider the work exploratory rather than confirmatory. I kinda like that.

The idea here, like much of this literature is that when you are faced with making a judgment about a situation or a person or an item that is somewhat uncertain (in this case, descriptions of rape-cases), you won’t take the time searching through all of your memory to find some matching prototype, but most likely stop with some information that you have already in mind. Such as something that was presented in that earlier experiment that has absolutely nothing to do with this experiment….

As with the others, there is a great deal of reasoning about how different kinds of primes may push around judgments, and I won’t really go into these here, because I really don’t think a cell size of 5 can properly answer those, but instead be more focused on what they did.

They recruited an equal number of men and women – students. 35 of each to be exact.

The cover story for the priming was that they wanted to investigate reactions to pictures that are shown in public media, that some people may think are morally objectionable. The priming materials consisted of 10 slides of pictures, where the “to be primed” concept was placed in the 3, 8th and 10th position.

They came up with 7 different priming conditions!

  1. Negative outcomes of aggression (basically, dead people)
  2. Aggressive acts that are considered socially OK (e.g. police subduing a criminal)
  3. Non-sexual intimacy between man and woman (e.g. holding hands)
  4. Female sex object (photos and cartoons)
  5. Sexual arousal (for men, or whoever digs women)
  6. Sexual arousal again – even more explicit

In the actual task, they first viewed all 10 slides without doing anything. In the second viewing, they reported their reactions to the slides using a checklist. They are not entirely clear what the checklist consists of, but they correspond to the following 5 factors:

  1. People are cruel and inhumane
  2. Aggression is socially sanctioned
  3. Intimate relations are desirable
  4. Women are sex objects
  5. Sexual arousal.

Come to think about it, could you really consider showing pictures of dead peeps, officers subduing perps, and women masturbating as priming? I can kind of see them thinking of it like that in 1985 (or prior, as the research must have been done before), but these are the types of stimuli that are used to induce momentary affect – such as Lang’s IAPS.

After this, they went on to the second experiment, which was more of a forensic experiment. Each participant was asked to judge 5 different descriptions of rape-cases on 10 different factors.

Each case described a rape. In each case, there was one section that described the perpetrator as either a stranger or an acquaintance. Another section stated that the woman had either resisted or not resisted (“fearing that she might provoke more serious injury to herself”).

A final fifth version omitted both types of statements. It wasn’t analyzed but was simply there so they could present the order of the cases in a latin-square manner across the 5 individuals per cell.

The participants rated each case according to following (using a 0-10 scale)

  1. a) extent which woman provoked rape
    b) likelihood she could have avoided
    c) likelihood she responded correctly
    d) extent her life in danger
    e) how emotionally upset she was
    f) how harmful effect rape had
    g) belief defendant should be convicted
    h) likelihood he will be convicted
    i) likelihood story is true

The ratings were aggregated into 4 composites
1) Perception of Crime (d, e, f)
2) Perception of victim – true (i)
e) Perception of victim – responsibility (a, b, c*)
4) Conviction judgment (g, h)

* means reverse scored.

In this judgment task, we are up in what would now be considered appropriate levels of observations. All 70 participants rated all of the cases, which were all properly randomized/latin-squared. They do report, very briefly, on what they consider the effect of the situational variations, but the inferential statistics consists simply of “All results to be noted were significant at F(1, 56) > 4,40, p < .05.” They also note the means for only one of these results.

I won’t go into detail here about what they found. It could be interesting, but it is aggregated across 7 different types of primes, so that should add some systematic noisiness (and it also isn’t my main concern).

Then they go on to analyze the effects of priming on the 4 composite judgments. They divide this up in three sections: The first looks at the two types of aggressive priming – comparing to control. The second looks at priming of relationship, and the third on priming women as sex-objects.

Remember. There are 5 individuals in each cell, because they are looking at men and women differently. (and not reporting any standard deviations).

Let’s start with the aggressive acts priming, and judged responsibility of the victim

Victims responsibility for rape
Aggressive outcomes Aggressive acts Control
Defendant stranger
males 3,7 3,4 2,33
females 4,1 3,4 2,7
Defendant acquainntance
males 5,23 2,5 2,47
females 3,77 2,7 3,73
Aggressive outcomes Aggressive acts Control
Victim resisted
Males 2,93 3,2 1,37
females 3,97 2,33 2,3
Victim did not resist
Males 6 3 3,43
Females 3,9 3,77 4,13

I have circled the two ratings that stick out – both in the aggressive outcome priming, and both by the male group (5 individuals) when the defendant ins an acquaintance and the victim did not resist. Means here are above the half-way point (which they are not for the other). They also report that there is significant interactions between priming type, sex of subjects and both of those types (remember these are two different analyses).

Both F’s are actually the same: F(2,56) = 4.09, p < .05.

I’m wondering if that was a typo, though. I’m not sure what the likelihood is that the actual F value would be exactly the same.

But, with only 5 in each cell, who knows if this is due to one particular individual in that particular cell.

Conviction of defendant

When they report their analysis of conviction of the defendant, they actually separate the responses (ought to be convicted vs will be convicted), but collapse across gender. As the two measures are within subjets, this means that the cells are now 10 individuals.

Should be convicted
Aggressive outcomes Aggressive acts Control
Victim resists 9,3 9,9 9,3
Victim does not resist 8,6 9,6 9,5
Victim resists 9,4 9,9 8,8
Victim does not resist 7,5 9,1 8,3
Will be convicted
Aggressive outcomes Aggressive acts Control
Victim resists 5,4 4,2 4,5
Victim does not resist 6,4 2,6 3,9
Victim resists 5,5 3,5 4,7
Victim does not resist 3,1 3,6 2,7

Priming doesn’t do anything to the ratings whether the defendant should be convicted, regardless of whether it is a stranger or an acquaintance.

They report two interactions for this – one 3 way, and one 4 way.

priming x acquaintance x resistance F(2,56) = 5.81, p < .01
Priming x acquaintance x resistance x type of judgment F(2,56) = 4,37, p < .05.

(Yes, I have a hard time understanding what is going on too.)

Priming aggression seems to not have had any discernible effects on the other two types of judgments.

Reading through the discussion, they are appropriately mute about interpreting the results. The make a little flag for possibly this is consistent with a just world. Being primed with aggressive outcomes resulted in higher ratings that the defendant ought to be convicted. But, as I keep harping on, 10 participants in each cell.

They do an interpretation about the “is she partially responsible” results – where the five guys together judged females who were raped by an acquaintance and did not resist the rape were judged as more responsible. We have to recall that this involves 3 different scenarios, although each measure involves two. When the defendant is an acquaintance, there is one scenario where the woman resisted, and one where she didn’t resist. Likewise, when the defendant is a stranger, there is one scenario where she resisted, and one where she didn’t. One of these overlap both judgments.

I don’t know what to make of it. I don’t think anybody should, considering how few participants there are.

Intimacy priming

Here they are comparing the 10 people who were primed with the couples to the control group.

They report a whole bunch of effects. First, how priming may have altered the perception of harm to the victim

Priming control
General percpetion 8,2 7,2 F(1,56) = 8,21, p < .01
acquaintance 8 6,5
Stranger 8,3 7,8 F(1,56) = 4,51, p < .01

Means are overall higher on the scale for those that were primed.

Also seems to have increased the degree to which the participants though the victim told the truth.

priming control
truth 8,5 7,7

They separate this out in men and women, as well as the circumstances, and report a significant effect. Men seemed to move around a bit here, but they report to means, just an F statistic. F(1,56) = 5,67, p < .02- The claim is that for men who judged a victim that resisted a rape by an acquaintance (that is, one scenario only) did not show an elevated belief in truth compared to control. Got that?

So, in other words, the 5 men in the priming condition judged the degree of truth of one story more like the ones in the control group, but we have no idea by how much. Is it close to the 7,7 overall? Does it even make sense to parse it down like this.

Finally victims responsibility (the conviction judgments did not yield any differences).

Priming Control
Males 3,6 2,4
Females 2 3,2 F(1,56) = 6,88, P < .01
Priming Control
Resist 2,6 1,8
Not resist 3 3,8 f(1,56) = 4.20, P < .05

I think what I want to point out first, is that all of the values are on the low end. In the text, they suggest that males judged the victim more responsible than in the control, but the reverse was true for the females.

Then, in the other analysis, they pool across gender to look at the effect of resisting, and they report it weirdly (although technically I can see it being correct). The primed rated the responsibility of the resisting victim higher than for control. The reverse was the case for judging responsibility of the non-resisters. Yes, technically that is true, but non-resisters are overall judged more responsible (or less non-responsible). But, can you even say anything with so few points? (I know, I keep harping on this).

Women as sex objects.

I actually have no idea how they aggregated this. They start with the three sex primes (sex object and two different sexual arousal ones) and then the control, which they put together in a 2 x 2 design. And, from this they find out that the sexual arousal only have a couple of effects that are independent of the sexual object so, as they say “therefore, all results to be presented are independent of the effects of priming stimuli on sexual arousal).

Did they throw out the nudie primed? Or what did they do? I suspect this, as the df is 1, 56 in their analyses, so what I present here seems to use only those individuals that were primed with sex-objects (and the controls).

There were nothing on perception of crime.

However, there were effects on belief that the story was truthful, and on responsibility. 4-way interactions between type of prime (object, control) sex of perceiver, whether rapist was acquaintance or stranger, and whether the woman resisted or not.

So here, for each data point, you have 5 individuals making two judgments,

First, truthfulness

Truth of testimony
Defendant stranger . Defendant acquaintance
Resisted did not resist . Resisted did not resist
Sex object 7,6 6,2 . 7,3 6,7
control 8,7 7,8 . 8,4 5,9
Sex object 9,2 9,3 . 9,1 8,2
Control 8,1 7,4 . 7,2 7,8

One result I could possibly believe is that men and women rate the victim differently when primed with women as a sex-object in that the women tend to believe her more and men to believe her less than compared to control. Yes, things are moving around due to the acquaintance and resistance factors, but geez….

The inferential evidence is this 4-way interaction

priming x sex of subjext x acquaintance x resistance F(1,56) 0 7,45 P < .01.

They also found an effect – same type of 4 way interaction – for victim responsibility.

Vicim responsibility .
Defendant stranger . Defendant acquaintance
Resisted did not resist Resisted did not resist
sex obj prime 2,1 3,4 . 2,9 2,7
no sex obj prime 2,4 2,6 . 1,2 3,7
sex obj prime 2,1 2 . 2 3,9
no sex obj prime 2,5 3,6 . 3,1 4,2

Again, here is the 4-way statistic.

priming x sex of subjext x acquaintance x resistance F(1,56) = 9,31 p < .01

What does this say? Aggregate of 3 ratings, but for 2 vignettes, and still only 5 participants in each point.

Possibly the most striking is that women that were primed held the defendant very low on responsibility, except when it was an acquaintance and she did not resist. But, I am really not sure what the results from 5 women can say here.

The judgment of conviction yielded nothing. They reported an “uninterpretable interaction approaching significance”. P-value was .10. I think we’ll well satisfied calling that not significant.

conviction judging does nothing. They report an “uninterpretable interaction approaching significance” that is a p .10
I’d say, there is nothing.

I kind of feel exhausted after having gone through this. It is, in a way, such a complex design, with the 7 different primes, the 4 different variants of stories, and the four types of questions where some were aggregated and others not. And, with 5 people in each cell, and no standard deviations anywhere, what can you say? Other than this is interesting to follow up on to see if these effects hold. The paper has been cited 61 times, so it is up for a forward trace.

But, as I mentioned, I’m not so sure these are primes rather than emotion inductions, and they differ from the verbal primes earlier.

I’ve gone through and noted the results in such detail, as I want to try to pull something together on these, but mainly I feel depressed over so much work done with so few participants.

Wyer, Robert S., Bodenhausen, Galen V., Gorman, Theresa F. (1985). Cognitive mediators of reactions to rape. Journal of Personality and Social Psychology, 48, 324-338.


About asehelene

... because if I'm in a room with a second person, I want to be reasonably sure I'm the crazier one.
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One Response to Wyer, Bodehausen and Gorman. Final paper in the trace of Srull & Wyer 1979

  1. rentabrain says:

    Sigh. I understand your frustration about the sample sizes… It is difficult to create new work / new theorizing when we are obligated to treat old findings based on these type of sample sizes as though they are fact…

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