College Students' Perceived Risk of Sexual Victimization and the Role of Optimistic Bias

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Journal Of Interpersonal Violence







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Many college women believe that their chances of experiencing a sexual assault are less than their peers. This phenomenon, called optimistic bias, has been hypothesized to be one important element to address in sexual assault risk reduction and awareness programs aimed at reducing women's chances of experiencing a sexual assault. The present study examined the role that participants' (N = 89) perceived similarity to a narrator (portraying a sexual assault survivor) describing an assault plays in reducing this bias. The age of the narrator was manipulated (similar or dissimilar to age of participants) with the aim of assessing whether the program could produce reductions in optimistic bias for those participants who watched a video of someone similar to them in age. A significant interaction between pre- and post-program and age similarity indicated a significant decrease in optimistic bias from pre- to posttest for the similar group. Furthermore, an exploratory analysis indicated optimistic bias for White participants decreased from pre- to posttest, whereas optimistic bias for the Black participants increased. These results suggest that some factors such as age similarity may reduce optimistic bias in sexual assault risk reduction and awareness programs. However, a race dissimilarity may increase optimistic bias. Thus, more research is needed to understand the factors that affect optimistic bias with regard to sexual assault awareness.

Publication Information

Untied, A. S., & Dulaney, C. (2014). An examination of the role of optimistic bias in college students’ perceived risk for sexual victimization. Journal of Interpersonal Violence. DOI: 10.1177/0886260514540326

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