How does social power affect the way potential sex partners are perceived?

University of South Carolina
Columbia, South Carolina
DOI: 10.18258/9254
Raised of $4,400 Goal
Funded on 2/10/19
Successfully Funded
  • $4,400
  • 100%
  • Funded
    on 2/10/19



This project aims to improve our understanding of the impacts of power on perceptions of potential sex partners. This will be accomplished by experimentally examining the effects of power on the way people rate the attractiveness of potential partners (Study 1) and whether or not they believe potential partners are interested in having sex with them (Study 2). 

In both Study 1 and Study 2, research subject will be randomly assigned to one of three experimental conditions - a lower power group, a neutral group, and a high power group.  Subjects will then complete an essay writing procedure designed to prime them to experience a low, neutral, or high personal sense of power (7). After completing the power priming procedure, subjects will then complete either a facial attractiveness rating task (Study 1) or the Sexual Intent Scale (Study 2).  

Subjects in Study 1 will complete the facial attractiveness rating task.  This task asks subjects to view a series of facial images and rate the attractiveness of the person depicted in the image on a scale of 1 (very unattractive) to 10 (very attractive).  Based on a set of initial screening questions, the images displayed to subjects will be either a set of female or male images, corresponding to the subject's sexual preferences.  The attractiveness ratings elicited by this task will then be aggregated to generate the dependent variable for Study 1.     

Subjects in Study 2 will complete the Sexual Intent Scale.  This scale was developed by Harnish and colleagues (9) in order to assess individual differences in attributing sexual intent to others. The scale is composed of 35 items, each rated on a five point scale.  Subjects are asked to indicate the degree to which the behaviors of a hypothetical person mean that the person is interested in having sex with them. Higher composite ratings on the Sexual Intent Scale indicate a greater likelihood of attributing sexual intent to others.  The Sexual Intent Scale score represents the dependent variable for Study 2.  

Research subjects will be recruited using Amazon's MTurk service (10).  This method of recruiting research subjects is cost effective and has been analyzed by researchers to determine its suitability for sociology, psychology, and other social science research purposes.  Previous researchers have demonstrated, for example, that MTurk samples are reasonably representative of the general American population (11).  Experimental data collected via MTurk are also found to be as valid and reliable as those collected with more traditional methods (12).  Additionally, MTurk workers have been found to be more attentive to instructions and experimental research tasks than other research participants (13).

The recruitment and procedure materials will inform subjects that the goal of the research project is to develop a better understanding of sexual intentions and behavior.  Subjects will be sufficiently informed ahead of time that the research is concerned with sensitive topics related to sex and sexuality and that they will be asked questions about their mood, personality, sexual history, and demographic traits.  Subjects will not be made aware of the exact goals or experimental nature of the research in order to avoid the possibility of demand characteristics or other threats to validity of the data.  In particular, subjects will not be explicitly told that the research is concerned with the impact of power on perceived attractiveness of potential sex partners, nor will they be informed that the research involves an experimental manipulation.  Research subjects will be provided with a link to an online survey that consists of a set of demographic type questions (age, race, sexual preference, socioeconomic status), a personality measure, a self-esteem measure, sexual history measures, relationship status questions, the experimental treatment (the essay writing procedure described above), and either the facial attractiveness rating task or the Sexual Intent Scale (each described above).


This project has not yet shared any protocols.