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Social Psychology: Review #1 of Check et al studies, by Prof.

Check

The Lack of Gender Differences in the Check et al Stranger versus Acquaintance Rape Studies

As you know, in class we discussed a number of differences on various dependent variables between the
Stranger and Acquaintance Rape Stories, as follows:

1. The woman in the Acquaintance Rape Story was perceived as reacting more favourably (less
negatively) than the woman in the Stranger Rape Story. (More willingness, more pleasure, less pain.)
Importantly, there was no objective basis for these biased perceptions, since the aggressive behaviour of
the rapist, as well as the woman's reactions to it, were the same in both stories. So, these can only be
perceptual biases, yes?

2. Looking at the Acquaintance Rape Story separately, subjects who held (pre-existing) Traditional Sex-
Role beliefs (High SRS) perceived the woman in the Acquaintance Rape story as reacting more
favourably (less negatively) than did those who had non-Traditional, Liberal Sex-Role beliefs (Low
SRS), thus suggesting that Traditional Sex-Role beliefs can also lead to biased perceptions. (Keep in
mind that we are talking here about Traditional versus Liberal beliefs in people who are reading the
identical Acquaintance rape Story.)

3. The same differences between Traditionalists versus Liberals were seen in those who were judging
the Stranger Rape Story, but it important to note that these difference were weaker, and in fact
(statistically) significantly weaker, suggesting that pre-existing Sex-Role beliefs affect Acquaintance rape
perceptions more than Stranger Rape perceptions (which is consistent our Sex Role Socialization
theoretical analysis).

4. Another finding from a later study that we also discussed in class was that our subjects saw the woman
in the Acquaintance Rape Story as more responsible for what happened than the woman in the Stranger
Rape Story. This is classic victim blaming, and is yet another example of how Acquaintance Rape is seen
as very different from Stranger rape, for no good reason. Note as well that our subjects saw the man in
the Acquaintance Rape Story as less responsible for what happened than the man in the Stranger
Rape Story. These two findings, taken together, suggest that people tend to blame the victim more and the
rapist less when it comes to Acquaintance Rape, another serious problem (which again, we see as caused at
least in part from our Traditional Sexual Scripts which are in turn caused by our more general Traditional
Sex-Role Beliefs.)

There were of course other findings discussed in class, but a major finding with respect to all of the results
discussed above was that there were no gender differences on any of these dependent variables. That
means that every finding discussed so far applied equally to males and females, which may seem surprising
to you.

The lack of Gender differences: Legal Implications

And how would we apply these data to the real world? Well, as you know, there can be both male and
female jurors in Criminal trials, and as you may not know, each potential juror is questioned and examined
ahead of time by both sides in court before being "qualified" and thus chosen as a juror. So here is a
question for you. If you were a defense lawyer defending an Acquaintance Rapist, would you want to try
to keep as many females as possible off the jury because they might be more likely to sympathize with the
victim and thus vote "guilty"? Your instinct might tell you yes, but the data above suggest no! There were
no differences between males' and females' perceptions of the woman in Acquaintance Rape Story. There
were no differences between males' and females' ratings of responsibility. And the effects of pre-existing
Sex Role beliefs on perceptions were the same for men as they were for women. Finally, there were no
differences between males' and females' responses to the question "Was This Story a Rape Story"? In fact,
there were virtually no differences at all between the responses of our male subjects and the responses of
our female subjects (except for the “Likelihood to Rape” ratings), and this would suggest that there would
be no advantage for the defense lawyer to have fewer females than males on the jury.