Measures of Behavioral Effects

Part: 
Four
Chapter: 
3

The range of dependent variable measures used in these studies is reasonably diverse. The use of similar measures across studies allows for better validation and the use of varied measures also provides the advantage of convergent validation. We will focus on behavioral measures of effects in this discussion and briefly discuss how attitude measures may or may not predict behavior.

Four categories of behavioral measures have been used in these studies:

  1. Measures of aggressive behavior.

    The Buss aggression machine, sometimes known as a "shock box," has been widely used in laboratory experiements in the area of media violence and aggressive behavior (see reviews by Andison, 1978; Comstock, In Press). Donnerstein and his colleagues have used this measure to examine similar effects of exposure to violent and nonviolent pornography and aggressive behavior (Donnerstein, et al., 1975; Donnerstein and Barrett, 1978; Donnerstein, 1980; Donnerstein and Berkowitz, 1981).

    The procedure usually involves putting the subject in a "learning" situation where the subject's task as "teacher" is to make sure that a "learner" (usually an experimental confederate) masters a given lesson. When the learner makes a "correct" response, the subject is instructed to reward him or her by pressing a button illuminating a light. Whenever the learner makes an error, he is punished by means of an electric shock. The sequence of response has, of course, been preprogrammed. The subject's "aggressive tendencies" are recorded by means of the intensity and the duration of the shock which, in reality, is not received by the confederate (see Baron, 1977b for discussion on this measure).

    While this procedure has been criticized (see, for example, Baron and Eggleston, 1972), subsequent procedural modifications have increased its validity and has, in fact, been found to be highly predictive of physical aggression (Baron, 1977b). The question, however, of this measure's predictive validity in the area of sexually aggressive behavior outside of the laboratory still remains open since no efforts have been directed at examining this question.

    Other surrogate measures of aggressive behavior have included the infliction of aversive noise (Cantor, et al., 1978; Malamuth, 1983) and infliction of "pain" to an experimental confederate in a retaliation move where the subject has the opportunity to apply too much cuff pressure in a blood pressure reading situation (Zillmann and Bryant, 1984). Some validation is offered by Malamuth (1983) for the use of the aversive-noise measure with evidence that attitudes about realworld aggression (such as wife battering and rape) are clearly correlated with levels of laboratory aggression against females, suggesting some linkage between laboratory aggression and external responses outside the laboratory.

  2. Judgments toward sexual assailants.

    In numerous studies, dependent measures have been obtained by having subjects respond to a rape case by evaluating both the victim and the assailant. While perceptual measures are most often used in this instance, one could also presumably consider delivering a verdict or a sentence as "behavior." In these instances, the presentation of a mock trial situation provides an element of mundane realism to the experimental situation. The studies by Linz (1985) and Krafka (1985) are excellent attempts at further diminishing demand characteristics of the experimental situation since the location of this phase of the experiment was conducted at the law school moot court where subjects were asked to evaluate what is purported to be the details of an actual rape case. An earlier study, a field experiment, by Malamuth and Check (1981) provides what may be the best procedure for eliminating demand characteristics and the measurement of effects in a setting that affords both control and realism. In this study, subjects were asked to watch the experimental films which were being shown on campus as part of the regular campus film program. Dependent measures were obtained a week later in what was presented as a public opinion survey. More studies in this area are clearly called for.

  3. Choice and Viewing of Pornographic Fare.

    Zillmann and Bryant (In Press) utilized a unique way of measuring behavioral effects of exposure by examining subjects' choice of entertainment fare in an unobtrusively measured procedure. In their study of the effects of massive exposure, the following procedure was used to determine subjects' preferences for entertainment fare after they had been repeatedly exposed to pornography or to a neutral stimulus in the control condition: the subjects were met individually by the experimenter and informed of a brief delay caused by equipment problems. The subject was then taken to another waiting area (ostensibly another student's office) with a television set, a video tape recorder, and some video tape cassettes (including general interest and adult tapes ranging from "common erotica to graphic depictions of relatively uncommon sexual practices") and invited to feel free to watch. To ensure the subject knew he could watch in privacy, the subject was told the experimenter would call him on the phone to report to the designated room. Unknown to the subject was the fact that each cassette tape was programmed to emit a unique signal such that when the tape was played, an event recorder also recorded the amount of time spent watching.

    The advantage of this procedure is its experimental as well as ecological realism.

  4. Self-reports of Aggressive Sexual Behavior.

    Two types of measures have been used to describe sexually aggressive behavior: a behavioral inclination measure operationalized by a self-reported likelihood of raping and using force in sexual interactions (see Malamuth, Haber and Feshbach, 1980; Malamuth, 1981; Briere and Malamuth, 1983) and a self-report inventory developed by Koss and Oros (1982) and used in several studies (see Malamuth, 1982; Malamuth, in press; Check, 1985). The latter includes a range of sexual behavior measures from saying things one does not mean to obtain sexual access to using various degrees of physical force.

An instrument developed by Burt to measure attitude (1980) has been used in a number of studies (Koss, 1986; Linz, 1985; Krafka, 1985; Malamuth and Check, 1981; Malamuth, 1981) to tap three dimensions: the acceptance of rape myths, the acceptance of interpersonal violence; and the acceptance of violence against women. The following are examples of the rape myth acceptance measure:

When women go around braless or wearing short skirts and tight tops, they are just asking for trouble.

Women who get raped while hitchhiking get what they deserve.

In evaluating these attitudinal measures and the laboratory measures of sexual behavior, two important questions have been raised to which we have alluded earlier. First, do attitudes predict behavior? And second, do laboratory measures of aggressive behavior predict actual aggression behavior?

On the first question, Malamuth and his colleagues have demonstrated a consistent correlation between Burt's (1980) attitudinal measures and their own measures of behavioral intentions (Briere and Malamuth, 1983; Malamuth, 1981; Malamuth, Haber and Feshbach, 1980; see also Malamuth and Briere, 1986 for a discussion on the attitude-behavior question in the area of sexual aggression). Koss (1986) has similarly demonstrated a high correlation between these sex-stereotyped beliefs and self-reports of sexual aggression. We do not have these same attitudinal data from those members of the population who provide the more extreme measures of sexually aggressive behavior-rapists-which might provide another means of validating the attitude-behavior postulate. However, interviews of incarcerated rapists appear to show similar acceptance of rape myths (Scully and Marolla, 1984). A number of studies are also reviewed in Malamuth and Briere (1986) which support the correlation between attitudes and non-laboratory aggressive behavior.