Biased Terminology Effects and Biased Information Processing
in Research on Adult-Nonadult Sexual Interactions:
An Empirical Investigation
Department of Psychology, Miami University
Department of Psychology, Syracuse University
The Journal of Sex Research Vol. 30, No.3, pp. 260-269 August
* Correspondence should be sent to Bruce Rind, Ph.D.,
Box 27558, Philadelphia. PA 19118.
Descriptive information only
Descriptive plus outcome information
Author Objectivity and Terminology Appropriateness
Adult-child and adult-adolescent sexual interactions have
generally been described in the professional literature with value-laden
negative terms. Recently, a number of researchers have criticized this state of
affairs, claiming that such usage is likely to have biasing effects.
The current investigation examined empirically the biasing
impact of negative terminology.
Eighty undergraduate students read a shortened journal article
that used either neutral or negative terms to describe a number of cases of
sexual relationships between male adolescents and male adults - the shortened
article was adapted from Tindall (1978). Additionally, students were exposed
either to descriptive information or descriptive plus long-term nonnegative
outcome information. The purpose of this manipulation was to examine whether
students would process the neutral and positive data in a biased fashion,
because these data contradict strongly held assumptions of harm as a consequence
of these contacts. Students' judgments were negatively biased by the negative
terminology. The students also exhibited evidence for biased processing of the
nonnegative outcome information.