Bio 27: Human Sexuality August 27, 2012 Chapter 2--Sex Research: Methods and Problems Goals of Sexology • Sexology: The study of sexuality • Goals are to: – Understand sexual behavior – Predict sexual behavior – Control / influence sexual behavior • Ethical considerations when controlling behavior Challenges of sexology • Sexology is a relatively new science • Sexual behavior in humans can be difficult to study – Most sexual behavior cannot be directly observed – Many people are uncomfortable discussing their sexual behavior, even with doctors or therapists Pseudoscience • Pseudoscience: a claim, belief, or practice which is presented as scientific, but does not adhere to a valid scientific method, lacks supporting evidence or plausibility, cannot be reliably tested, or otherwise lacks scientific status • How do we tell pseudoscience from real science? Sexology research may be either experimental or non-experimental • 3 commonly used nonexperimental methods: – Case studies – Surveys – Direct observation • These are considered non-experimental because the researchers only observe naturally occurring behavior, they do not manipulate it Non-Experimental Research Methods: Case Studies • Single subject or small group – Often used to study unusual behavior or individuals with physical or emotional disorders • In depth data are gathered using: – Direct observation – Questionnaires – Testing – Experimentation Non-experimental Research Methods: Case Study • Advantages: – In-depth exploration – Flexibility in data gathering procedures • Disadvantages: – Hard to generalize results – Often based on retrospective self-report, which can create bias – Not suitable for many research questions Non-experimental Research Methods: Surveys • Small to large samples of people • Data gathered using: – Face-to-face or phone interviews – Questionnaires • Can be computerized or distributed online Non-experimental Research Methods: Survey Methods • Advantages: – Questionnaires: anonymity may improve honesty, cheaper – Interviews: more flexible, rapport, may improve clarity & understanding • Disadvantages: – Non-response – Demographic bias: people of color and more conservative individuals are underrepresented – Inaccurate information Use of surveys to study sexuality • Alfred Kinsey published reports on male (1948) and female (1953) sexuality based on surveys • Sampled 5,300 white males and 5,940 white females from urban and rural areas; younger, better-educated, urban, and Protestant individuals were overrepresented • Many key findings are still widely accepted today: – Educational level is correlated with sexual behavior – Homosexuality is not always an “all or none” proposition Use of surveys to study sexuality • National Health and Social Life Survey was funded by the government in 1988 in response to the AIDS crisis to gain information about sexual practices and attitudes among Americans • Federal funding was withdrawn in 1991 by conservative members of Congress • Researchers continued using private funding, but were only able to do a much smaller study focusing on White, Black, and Hispanic Americans Non-experimental Research Methods Outcome from Survey Data Research funding in the U.S.: it’s political • Most health science research in the U.S. is funded by the U.S. government through the National Institutes of Health ($30.86B in 2012) • National Institutes of Health are accountable to the U.S. Congress and the President • Distribution of funds is based on both merit and politics • Studies of sexuality and of drug and alcohol abuse have been particular political targets By the way, it’s still happening • Congressman Darrell Issa proposed the following amendments to the bill to fund the federal government’s activity in 2011: • • • • • • AMENDMENT NO. 417: At the end of the bill (before the short title), insert the following: Sec. __. None of the funds made available by this Act may be used by the National Institutes of Health to study the impact of integral yoga on hot flashes in menopausal women. AMENDMENT NO. 418: At the end of the bill (before the short title), insert the following: Sec. __. None of the funds made available by this Act may be used by the National Institutes of Health to examine the potential impact of a soda tax on population health. AMENDMENT NO. 419: At the end of the bill (before the short title), insert the following: Sec. __. None of the funds made available by this Act may be used by the National Institutes of Health to research the use of marijuana in conjunction with opioid medications, such as morphine. AMENDMENT NO. 420: At the end of the bill (before the short title), insert the following: Sec. __. None of the funds made available by this Act may be used by the Department of Health and Human Services to study condom use skills in adult males. AMENDMENT NO. 421: At the end of the bill (before the short title), insert the following: Sec. __. None of the funds made available by this Act may be used by the Department of Health and Human Services to study the concurrent and separate use of malt liquor and marijuana among young adults. AMENDMENT NO. 422: At the end of the bill (before the short title), insert the following: Sec. __. None of the funds made available by this Act may be used by the National Science Foundation to study whether video games improve mental health for the elderly. Non-experimental Research Methods: Direct Observation Studies • Small to moderate samples • Observe and record responses of subjects - Reliability depends on representative samples and accuracy of recording devices • Advantages: – Eliminates possibility of falsification – Records can be kept indefinitely • Disadvantages: – Self-selection, behavior influenced by observers, expense Methods for direct observation • Video recording • Photography • Functional MRI (fMRI) measures changes in blood flow in the brain; associated with changes in brain activity • New: measurement of eye pupil dilation (study published August 3rd) • Electronic devices for measuring sexual arousal (shown in next slide) Measuring Sexual Arousal Penile strain gauge (above) measures erections; vaginal photoplethysmograph (below) measures vaginal blood flow Direct observation: Masters and Johnson • Gynecologist William Masters and psychologist Virginia Johnson claim to have observed at least 10,000 sex acts in a laboratory setting • Wrote two books in 1966 and 1970s and counseled couples on improving their sex lives • First to conduct research on sexuality in older adults • Did a combination of direct observation and experimental method The Experimental Method: Procedures • The Experimental Method is how most scientific research is conducted • Conditions are manipulated by scientists usually in a laboratory setting • Observations & previous knowledge lead to the development of a testable hypothesis • Hypothesis: a proposed answer to a scientific question The Experimental Method: Procedures • Independent variable: condition or component that is manipulated • Dependent variable: what is being measured • Ideally want all experimental groups to be the same except for the independent variable! The Experimental Method • Advantages: – Lowers the influence of other variables – Can establish cause-effect relationships • Disadvantages: – Being measured may affect actions – Artificiality of laboratory setting Use of the experimental to study sexual behavior • Observation: men under the influence of alcohol often exhibit impaired sexual performance • Experiment: 48 male college students watched a sexually explicit film while wearing a penile strain gauge. They then repeated this action after drinking alcohol • Conclusion: Alcohol decreased sexual arousal, and the degree of reduction was related to the amount of alcohol consumed Human studies: ethical issues • Prior to 1948, few restrictions on scientific studies in humans • Tuskegee experiment in U.S. • Following cruel experiments performed by the Nazis, increasing awareness that human subjects of scientific studies should be given certain rights in the 1950s-1960s Ethical Guidelines for Human Sex Research • No pressure or coercion for participation – Controversy over paying subjects for participation • Informed consent and voluntary participation • Confidentiality and anonymity • Question of deception: don’t always want to tell subjects in advance what is being studied • Institutional ethics review Use of animals in sexology research • Most medical research in this country, including sexology research, is performed on laboratory animals • 95% of laboratory animals are rats and mice • Mice are about 85% genetically similar to humans, but some substantial differences, too! • Most mammalian females will only participate in sexual behavior when in estrus Use of animals in sexology research • Ethical concerns about the use of animals • More invasive procedures are permitted, but must be approved • Extensive laws protect the rights of lab animals • Some more protected than others Evaluating Research: Questions to Ask • Why was the research done? Who did the research? Who paid for the research? What are their credentials? What biases are there? • Who were the participants? How were they selected & assigned to groups? • How was the research conducted? What methods were used? • Where was the research reported? What additional support is there? “The federal government should not spend money on sexology research” How strongly do you agree or disagree with this statement? Explain your answer. 1 2 3 4 5 strongly disagree somewhat disagree neutral somewhat agree strongly agree Homework assignment : due Wednesday 8/29 • Design a human sexuality research study. Include a description of: – What question you will answer – How you will conduct your research – What ethical issues will result from your study? – What possible challenges might you have in getting accurate results? • Your assignment should be 400–700 words and must be typewritten!