Boomerang Effects of Sexual-Violence Prevention Messages on College Men's Attitudes
Keywords:college men, sexual assault, prevention, boomerang effect
Background: Sexual assault is a serious public health problem in the U.S. Although colleges and universities receiving federal funding are required to provide sexual violence prevention and awareness programs, initiatives aimed specifically at college men remain relatively uncommon. Furthermore, assessments of the effectiveness of such programs suggest that most do not contribute to the prevention of sexual violence on college campuses.
Aim: This study investigates the prevalence and malleability of attitudes that underlie sexually violent behaviors perpetrated by self-identified heterosexual, cisgender male college students against college women.
Methods: Seventy-one self-identified heterosexual, cisgender, full-time undergraduate male students, all at low risk for committing sexual assault, participated in a pretest-posttest online experiment. They were randomly assigned to one control condition and two experimental sexual-assault-prevention interventions featuring a female or a male speaker.
Results: The experimental conditions did not have the intended effects of eliciting attitudes that would further the prevention of sexual violence on college campuses. The experimental conditions were, in fact, less effective on some measures than the control condition.
Conclusions: The findings suggest a boomerang effect, which refers to a persuasive outcome opposite to the desired one. Previous research has pointed to boomerang effects of sexual-assault prevention programs among high-risk men. The results of this study suggest a boomerang effect is also evident among college men at low risk for committing sexual assault.
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Copyright (c) 2018 Caitlin Spikes, Miglena Sternadori
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