Making Decisions About Sexual Intercourse: Capturing College Students' Policies

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Policy capturing was used to assess the cues that affect college students' decisions about whether to engage in sexual intercourse. Participants read a series of scenarios describing a potential sexual encounter between the participant and a hypothetical date. For each scenario, participants judged the frequency with which they would engage in intercourse in that situation. The scenes varied the levels of five independent variables: the duration of relationship, knowledge of the date's sexual history, whether the couple had been drinking, whether intercourse was anticipated, and condom availability. The results show that intentions to engage in sexual intercourse are shaped by identifiable cues. Almost all participants indicated that condom availability was a major factor. For some, relationship duration and information about previous partners also influenced judgments. Differences in policies for men and women were evident. The findings are considered in the context of potential AIDS prevention strategies.

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Basic and Applied Social Psychology, v. 19, issue 1, p. 101-120