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Research has suggested that women are prone to sexual regrets of action. In the present study, the authors examined "hooking up" as a predictor of sexual regret in 152 sexually active college women. Results indicate that two sexual behaviors were particularly predictive of participants' regret: (a) engaging in sexual intercourse with someone once and only once and (b) engaging in intercourse with someone known for less than 24 hr. Noncoital hookups (performing and receiving oral sex) were not significantly related to regret, indicating that college women may be underestimating the health risks associated with oral sex. Although hookups are a common feature of contemporary college life, the results counter the popular assumption that hookups are inconsequential for college women. The authors discuss the preventative health implications of their findings.
Content may be subject to copyright.
Address correspondence to Elaine M. Eshbaugh, Department of Family Studies, Uni-
versity of Northern Iowa, 241 Latham Hall, Cedar Falls, IA 50614-0332, USA; elaine
.eshbaugh@uni.edu (e-mail).
77
The Journal of Social Psychology, 2008, 148(1), 77–89
Copyright © 2008 Heldref Publications
Hookups and Sexual Regret
Among College Women
ELAINE M. ESHBAUGH
GARY GUTE
University of Northern Iowa
ABSTRACT. Research has suggested that women are prone to sexual regrets of action.
In the present study, the authors examined “hooking up” as a predictor of sexual regret in
152 sexually active college women. Results indicate that two sexual behaviors were par
-
ticularly predictive of participants’ regret: (a) engaging in sexual intercourse with someone
once and only once and (b) engaging in intercourse with someone known for less than 24
hr. Noncoital hookups (performing and receiving oral sex) were not significantly related
to regret, indicating that college women may be underestimating the health risks associ
-
ated with oral sex. Although hookups are a common feature of contemporary college life,
the results counter the popular assumption that hookups are inconsequential for college
women. The authors discuss the preventative health implications of their findings.
Keywords: casual sex, college women, hookups, sexual regret
LIFE PRESENTS OPPORTUNITIES. With opportunity comes the possibility
of choosing unwisely. Regret, a negative emotion accompanied by self-blame
(Connolly & Zeelenberg, 2002; Gilovich & Medvec, 1995; Zeelenberg, 1999),
can haunt people in a variety of life domains. Choices that have proven unwise
in the areas of education, career, and romantic relationships (including love, sex,
and dating) account for the majority of adults’ regrets (Roese & Summerville,
2005). Regret about romantic relationships is especially common in younger
adults, who experience more relationship change and turmoil than do older
adults (Jokisaari, 2003). Oswalt, Cameron, and Koob (2005) found that 72% of
the sexually active college students they sampled regretted at least one instance
in which they had engaged in sexual activity. Several studies have demonstrated
a clear gender difference in how people experience sexual regret, with convinc-
ing evidence showing that men are more likely to experience regrets of inaction
(i.e., wishing that they had engaged in a sexual behavior), whereas women are
more likely to experience regrets of action (i.e., wishing they had not engaged in
a sexual behavior; Dickson, Paul, Herbison, & Silva, 1998; Klassen, Williams,
& Levitt, 1989; Oswalt et al.; Roese et al., 2006).
College environments are known for encouraging sexual permissiveness
among young adults (Chng & Moore, 1994; Paul, McManus, & Hayes, 2000),
including acceptance of casual sexual encounters commonly termed hookups.
According to Paul et al. (p. 76), a hookup is “a sexual encounter, usually lasting
only one night, between two people who are strangers or brief acquaintances.
Hookups may or may not include sexual intercourse. Paul et al. found that 78%
of college students had engaged in a hookup and 30% of college students had
engaged in a hookup involving intercourse. Because a hookup is seldomly a
planned event (Paul & Hayes, 2002), partners rarely build a relationship follow-
ing the encounter.
Despite the prevalence of hooking up, Paul et al. (2000, p. 81) suggested
that some people may report feeling “out of control” during hookups and harbor
regret after such encounters. Paul and Hayes (2002) found that when they asked
participants to list their feelings after a typical hookup, the most frequent response
was “regretful or disappointed” (35%). Other frequent responses were “good or
happy” (27%) and “satisfied” (20%). Female participants were more likely than
men to feel “regretful or disappointed”; they were also more likely to ruminate
about a hookup and feel greater shame and self-doubt following the experience.
In contrast, men were more likely to feel “satisfied.
Although several researchers have investigated sexual regret among college
students (Dickson et al., 1998; Klassen et al., 1989; Roese et al., 2006), they
have not conducted studies in which they controlled for demographic variables
and sexual behavior while examining the relationship between hooking up
and sexual regret. In the present study, we explored predictors of sexual regret
among sexually active college women who had engaged in sexual intercourse.
Although hooking up is prevalent, women may still feel shame afterward (Paul
& Hayes, 2002), and in the weeks and months following a hookup, this shame
may develop into regret. Our purpose was to examine whether college women
do, in fact, experience sexual regrets of action as a result of hookups involving
sexual intercourse and oral sex.
Regret
Zeelenberg (1999) defined regret as a negative emotion that one feels when
remembering the past and imagining that the present would be different if one
had behaved differently. Regrets can result from acting in a certain way (regrets of
action, or regrets of commission) or from failing to act (regrets of inaction, or regrets
of omission; Oswalt et al., 2005). When asked to list past regrets, research partici
-
pants have more commonly mentioned regrets of inaction (Jokisaari, 2003). Regrets
of inaction last longer than do regrets of action, presumably because such regrets are
78 The Journal of Social Psychology
more subject to imaginative wondering about what might have been. Although, on
average, regrets of action are shorter in duration, they are more emotionally intense
(Gilovich & Medvec, 1995; Gilovich, Medvec, & Chen, 1995).
Researchers have documented the negative impact of regretful emotions on
an individual’s subjective well-being (e.g., Jokisaari, 2003). Their findings also
suggest that both actual or experienced regret—regret that a person actually feels
after a decision (“crying over spilled milk”)—and anticipated regret—regret that
a person expects to experience as a result of a decision—can affect decision mak-
ing (Guthrie, 1999; Zeelenberg, 1999; Zeelenberg & Beattie, 1997). If so, there
may be potential value in regret if it encourages people to make decisions that
minimize or prevent future regret.
Sexual Regret
Klassen et al. (1989) reported that in their 1970 national survey on sexual
attitudes, they found that 40% of U.S. adults had some regret about having
engaged in premarital sex (a regret of action) and 8% regretted not having
engaged in premarital sex (a regret of inaction). Regret for having sex before
marriage was more common among women. A more recent study of 21-year-
olds in New Zealand (Dickson et al., 1998) indicated similar gender differences.
Sixteen percent of men and 54% of women believed they “should have waited
longer” before having sex for the first time. Only 1% of women—but 11% of
men—reported that they had waited too long.
Sawyer and Smith (1996) asked college students about whether they ever
regretted their first experience of intercourse. Results indicated that (a) 14% of
men and 31% of women regretted it immediately after it occurred and (b) 20%
of men and 38% of women regretted it at a later time. Oswalt et al. (2005) identi
-
fied four common reasons for sexual regrets of action: (a) Participants’ decisions
were inconsistent with their values (37%); (b) alcohol influenced their decisions
(32%); (c) participants’ partners did not want the same thing the participants did
(28%); and (d) participants did not use condoms (25%). Women were more likely
than men to regret a sexual encounter because they felt pressured into it.
Roese et al. (2006) presented 486 college students with 18 statements of
regret from three domains: (a) sexuality, (b) romance, and (c) friend or family
relationships. Three of the items from the sexuality domain represented regrets
of action (e.g., “Should have tried harder to sleep with [name]”) and three items
represented regrets of inaction (e.g., “Shouldn’t have had sex with [name]”).
Participants indicated if they had experienced each feeling of regret, and, if so,
they then rated its frequency and intensity. Gender differences for sexual regrets
of action were not significant; however, men were much more likely to have
experienced sexual regrets of inaction than were women.
Gender-related differences in the experience of sexual regret may be illumi-
nated, in part, by evolutionary perspectives on mating strategies. Central to evolu-
Eshbaugh & Gute 79
tionary psychology is the argument that gender differences in mating strategies are
tied to gender differences in the parental investment associated with pregnancy and
child rearing (Buss, 2003). Each pregnancy has the potential to seriously tax mul-
tiple resources in a womans life. In addition to a 9-month gestation period and the
attendant issues, she bears the primary responsibility for many years of child rear-
ing (Trivers, 1972). A man who impregnates a woman, however, can theoretically
escape many of the same demands upon his resources. In addition to not having to
carry a pregnancy to term, he has the ability to remove himself from the lives of the
mother and child. Potentially, he is free to have intercourse with, and impregnate,
other women. Awareness of the many implications and responsibilities accompany-
ing pregnancy may result in women being much more cautious than are men about
engaging in sexual intercourse with multiple partners (Buss & Schmitt, 1993) and
thus having greater regret when they do engage in casual intercourse.
Social explanations for gender differences may also explain sexual regret
(Herold & Mewhinney, 1993). Researchers (e.g., Herold & Mewhinney, 1993)
have found that norms of acceptable sexual behavior vary by gender, with greater
permissiveness toward sexual behavior for men than women. This double stan-
dard may influence participants’ regret following a sexual encounter. Hooking up
may be associated with a decrease in self-esteem in women because the behavior
violates a social norm (Herold & Mewhinney, 1993). Because of the continued
double standard that rewards young men for having more sexual partners (Craw-
ford & Popp, 2003), it is reasonable to expect a correlation between hooking up
and self-esteem in young men. Nonetheless, Paul et al. (2000) reported that both
men and women who had hooked up had lower self-esteem.
Building on the findings of Dickson et al. (1998), Klassen et al. (1989),
Sawyer and Smith (1996), and Roese et al. (2006), all of whom found that college
women are more prone to sexual regret because of action rather than inaction, in
the present study we explored predictors of sexual regret among sexually active
college women who had engaged in hookups. We defined hooking up as any of
the following four actions: (a) engaging in intercourse with someone once and
only once, (b) engaging in intercourse with someone known for less than 24 hr,
(c) performing oral sex on someone known for less than 24 hr, and (d) receiving
oral sex from someone known for less than 24 hr. Our primary hypothesis was
that once we controlled for other sexual behavior (e.g., age at first intercourse,
number of partners) and demographic factors (e.g., age, religiosity), we would
find that hooking up was related to sexual regret among women.
Method
Participants
Participants were 152 female students in a human sexuality course at a mid
-
sized Midwestern U.S. university who completed a sexual history questionnaire.
80 The Journal of Social Psychology
We originally asked 193 female students to participate, but we excluded 41 of the
completed questionnaires from our analysis because the respondents had not been
sexually active and, therefore, did not provide responses for all relevant variables.
Approximately 97% of participants (n = 148) indicated they were hetero-
sexual, 3 participants reported they were bisexual, and 1 participant did not
respond to the item regarding sexual orientation. More than 96% of participants
were White, and the mean age was 20.1 years (SD = 1.60 years). Approximately
43% of participants identified as Catholic, 27% as other, 26% as Protestant, and
3% as agnostic. When asked about their attitudes toward sexuality, 52.6% identi-
fied themselves as fairly or very liberal, 30.9% as moderate, and 7.9% as fairly
or very conservative; the remaining 8.4% either responded that they were unsure
or did not know, or did not respond.
Measures
Participants completed questionnaires during class time about their (a) cre
-
ativity, (b) personality, (c) sexual attitudes, and (d) sexual behavior. Extra credit
was not awarded for participation. We did not use the measures of creativity and
personality in any of our analyses.
Sexual regret. We asked participants to indicate their level of overall sexual regret
on a scale of 1 (no regrets) to 4 (many regrets
).
Sexual behaviors. We asked participants questions about their sexual behavior,
including (a) whether they had ever cheated on a partner; (b) age of first penile–
vaginal intercourse; (c) number of intercourse partners in the last year; (d) age of
first oral–genital contact; (e) number of oral sex partners in the last year; and (f)
whether they had ever engaged in anal sex.
Religiosity. Participants rated the current intensity of their religious beliefs on a
scale ranging from 1 (not at all intense) to 3 (very intense). We included the reli
-
giosity variable in response to Oswalt et al.s (2005) suggestion that researchers
of sexual regret also study participants’ level of religiosity.
Results
Preliminary Analyses
Table 1 displays frequencies for predictor and outcome variables. Twenty-
three percent of participants reported that they had no regrets about their sexual
past; only 2% indicated that they had many regrets. The majority (74%) reported
either few or some regrets. The mean score for sexual regret was 1.95 (
SD = 0.68),
with a skewness of 0.56 (SE = 0.20) and a kurtosis of 0.81 (SE = 0.39).
Eshbaugh & Gute 81
82 The Journal of Social Psychology
TABLE 1. Frequencies for Predictor and Outcome Variables (N = 152)
Variable
n %
Feelings about sexual decisions
No regrets 35 23.0
A few regrets 93 61.2
Some regrets 20 13.2
Many regrets 4 2.6
Intensity of religious beliefs
Not at all intense 11 7.2
Moderately intense 75 49.3
Very intense 66 43.4
Cheated on a partner at least once
Yes 57 37.5
No 95 62.5
Age of first intercourse
15 years or under 14 9.2
16–18 years 106 69.7
19–20 years 25 16.4
21 years or older 7 4.6
Number of intercourse partners in the last year
0 15 9.9
1 71 46.7
2 31 20.4
3 9 5.9
4 7 4.6
5 or more 19 12.5
Age of first oral sex
14 years or under 17 11.2
15–16 years 48 31.6
17–18 years 68 44.7
19 years or older 19 12.5
Has had anal sex
Yes 49 32.2
No 103 67.8
Has had intercourse with someone
once and only once
Yes 55 36.2
No 97 63.8
Has had intercourse with someone
known for less than 24 hr
Yes 44 28.9
No 108 71.1
Has performed oral sex on someone
known for less than 24 hr
Yes 19 12.5
No 133 87.5
Has received oral sex from someone
known for less than 24 hr
Yes 14 9.2
No 138 90.8
Table 2 displays zero-order correlations among the study variables. Participants
who indicated strong religious beliefs were less likely to indicate a high level of regret.
Regret was positively related to (a) number of intercourse partners in the last year, (b)
number of oral sex partners in the last year, (c) engaging in intercourse with someone
once and only once, (d) engaging in intercourse with someone known for less than 24
hr, and (e) receiving oral sex from someone known for less than 24 hr (p < .05).
We compared the mean regret scores of participants who had engaged in
each of the four hooking-up behaviors with the mean regret scores of participants
who had not engaged in each respective behavior. The mean regret score for
participants who had engaged in intercourse with someone once and only once
was 2.17 (SD = 0.66, 95% confidence interval [CI] = 2.04–2.31), compared with
1.56 (SD = 0.54, 95% CI = 1.41–1.70) for participants who had not engaged in
that behavior. This difference was significant, F(1, 150) = 34.75, p < .001. The
mean regret score for participants who had engaged in intercourse with someone
known for less than 24 hr was 2.32 (SD = 0.77, 95% CI = 2.08–2.55), compared
with 1.81 (SD = 0.58, 95% CI = 1.69–1.92) for participants who had not engaged
in that behavior. This difference was also significant, F(1, 150) = 19.73, p < .001.
There was also a significant difference in mean regret score, F(1, 150) = 11.07,
p < .001, between participants who had received oral sex from someone known
for less than 24 hr (M = 2.54, SD = 0.88, 95% CI = 2.01–3.07) and participants
who had not engaged in that behavior (M = 1.90, SD = 0.64, 95% CI = 1.79–2.00).
The difference in mean regret scores between the group that had performed oral
sex on someone know for less than 24 hr and the group that had not engaged in
that behavior was not significant, F(1, 150) = .00, p = .96. Both groups had a
mean of 1.95 (SDs = 0.68 and 0.69, respectively).
Test of Hypothesis
To test our hypothesis, we conducted a regression with sexual regret as the
outcome variable (see Table 3). Because high levels of collinearity can be prob
-
lematic, we computed collinearity statistics. Tolerance for the predictor variables
ranged from .41 to .86. The regression equation accounted for 34% of the vari-
ance in sexual regret, F(12, 134) = 5.67, p < .001. When we controlled for age,
religiosity, and other sexual-behavior variables, we found that two of the hooking-
up variables—engaging in intercourse with someone once and only once and
engaging in intercourse with someone known for less than 24 hr—significantly
predicted sexual regret. Hooking-up variables pertaining to oral–genital contact
were not significant predictors of regret; however, receiving oral sex from some-
one known for less than 24 hr approached significance (p = .06). Two additional
hooking-up behaviors were positively related to regret: (a) having had one’s first
experiences of intercourse and oral sex at an early age and (b) having had many
intercourse partners in the last year. Also, religious participants were more likely
to indicate sexual regret than were nonreligious participants.
Eshbaugh & Gute 83
84 The Journal of Social Psychology
TABLE 2. Zero-Order Correlations Among Study Variables
Variable 1 2 3 4 5 6 7 8 9 10 11 12 13
1. Feelings of sexual regret
2. Age .01
3. Intensity of religious beliefs –.04 .11
4. Has cheated on a partner –.15
*
.01 .18
*
5. Age of first intercourse –.12 .17
*
.12 .39
**
6. Number of intercourse
partners in the last year .31
**
–.08 –.29
**
–.36
**
–.11
7. Age of first oral sex –.02 .09 .18
*
.39
**
.49
**
–.21
*
8. Number of oral sex partners
in the last year .16
*
–.06 –.18
*
–.36
**
–.11 .77
**
–.24
**
9. Has had anal sex –.03 .04 .09 .19
*
.15 –.15 .16 –.12
10. Has had intercourse with
someone once and only once .43
**
.13 –.15
*
–.23
**
–.12 .34
**
–.12 .22
**
–.01
11. Has had intercourse with
someone known for less
than 24 hr .34
**
.18
*
–.20
*
–.23
**
–.13 .25
**
–.18
*
.17
*
–.18
*
.32
**
12. Has performed oral sex on
someone known for less than 24 hr –.00 .22
**
–.10 .01 .14 –.01 –.06 .07 –.06 .03 .28
**
13. Has received oral sex from
someone known for less
than 24 hr .26
**
.03 –.05 –.15 –.06 .08 –.08 .06 –.08 .23
**
.37
**
.31
**
*
p < .05.
**
p < .01.
Eshbaugh & Gute 85
TABLE 3. Summary of Regression Analysis of Study Variables as Predictors of Sexual Regret
Variable B SE B
β t(150) p
Constant 1.96 0.38 5.11
Age –0.00 0.03 –.01 –0.15 .88
Religiosity 0.20 0.09 .17 2.18 .03
Has cheated on a partner 0.06 0.12 .04 0.45 .65
Age of first intercourse –0.08 0.04 –.18 –2.02 .04
Number of intercourse partners in last yr 0.09 0.04 .25 2.10 .04
Age of first oral sex 0.08 0.03 .21 2.43 .01
Number of oral sex partners in last yr –0.01 0.05 –.03 –0.22 .83
Has had anal sex –0.10 0.11 –.07 –0.92 .36
Has had intercourse with someone
once and only once 0.37 0.12 .26 3.22 .00
Has had intercourse with someone
known for less than 24 hr 0.30 0.13 .20 2.34 .02
Has performed oral sex on someone
known for less than 24 hr –0.21 0.17 –.10 –1.22 .22
Has received oral sex from someone
known for less than 24 hr 0.38 0.20 .16 1.89 .06
Discussion
Although hookups are thought to be a common feature of current college
environments (Lambert, Kahn, & Apple, 2003; Paul & Hayes, 2002; Paul et al.,
2000), the results of this study refute the idea that hookups are inconsequential to
college women. To the contrary, we found that, when we controlled for other sexual
behavior, hookups emerged as predictive of sexual regret among college women.
Hookups including intercourse were more strongly associated with regret
than were hookups not including intercourse. One possible explanation for this
finding is that these college women do not think oral sex is really sex, a belief
shared by a majority of undergraduate students (Gute, Eshbaugh, & Wiersma, in
press; Remez, 2000; Sanders & Reinisch, 1999). Oral sex hookups may provide
undergraduate women with a way to strike a compromise between two opposing
social forces: (a) a college campus that is conducive to hookups and (b) a larger
society that disapproves of casual intercourse (Paul et al., 2000). However, if
college women are not experiencing the same magnitude of regret from hookups
involving oral sex as they are from hookups involving intercourse, it may be
because they are underestimating the health risks associated with oral sex (Gute
et al., in press; Remez, 2000).
Importance and Implications of the Present Study
Why is the study of college students’ regret, particularly sexual regret,
important? Because women’s lifestyle choices in contemporary Western culture
are more plentiful than in the past—when choices of marital partners were more
limited, career options narrower, and sexual behaviors more prescribed (see
Gilovich & Medvec, 1995)—young women today have more opportunities for
regret. College and university environments support a wide range of normative
choices, including hooking up. Some of the decisions undergraduate women
make will inevitably produce regrettable decisions; therefore, college campuses
provide an important venue for studying sexual regret.
Regret may have implications for health and happiness. In a study of per-
sonal goals and regrets, Jokisaari (2003) asked Finnish adults to list their regrets
and appraise the consequences of each one they identified. Jokisaari found that,
controlling for age and negative affect, perceived consequences of regrets were
related to lower self-rated life satisfaction. Increased physical ailments (e.g.,
headaches, chest pains, colds, digestive problems) were also linked to perceived
consequences of regrets. Even regrets that participants listed from many years
earlier were predictive of well-being and health. These findings suggest that the
impact of doing something regrettable extends well beyond figuratively “kicking
oneself” for a bad decision.
Results from the present study have preventative health implications.
Research (e.g., Zeelenberg & Beattie, 1997) suggests that individuals take
86 The Journal of Social Psychology
anticipated emotions, including regret, into account when making decisions.
Anticipated regret plays a role in sexual choices such as condom use among ado-
lescents (Bakker, Buunk, & Manstead, 1997; Richard, Van der Plight, & De Vries,
1995) and among drug users (Van Empelen, Kok, Jansen, & Hoebe, 2001). The
present findings about which decisions college women find most regrettable—
(a) having their first experience of intercourse or oral sex at an early age, (b) hav-
ing many sexual partners in the last year, (c) having intercourse with someone
once and only once, and (d) having intercourse with someone known for less
than 24 hr—provide sexual health educators with a basis for discussing the role
of anticipated regret in programs that address the risks of sexually transmitted
infections and pregnancy. A possible strategy for preventing risky sexual behavior
is to increase awareness among college students that these behaviors can lead to
negative feelings despite the casual feelings seemingly displayed by peers and
depicted in popular culture.
Limitations
The present research has several limitations. First, we included in our analy
-
sis only women who had engaged in sexual intercourse, because many items on
the questionnaire did not apply to the experiences of women who had not had
intercourse. However, it is likely that some of the excluded women had engaged
in noncoital hookups and, therefore, may still have experienced sexual regret.
Second, because men were not included in the sample, we were unable to exam-
ine the possibility of a gender-based double standard. Although, to our knowledge,
no researchers have explored sexual regret among college men who have engaged in
hookups, some studies on sexual regret (e.g., Dickson et al., 1998; Klassen et al., 1989;
Oswalt et al., 2005; Roese et al., 2006) lead us to hypothesize that gender would mod-
erate the relationship between hookups and sexual regret. Further research is needed
to disentangle the relationships among gender, hooking up, and sexual regret.
Conclusion
Social norms on college campuses appear to accept and support hooking up
(Paul & Hayes, 2002; Paul et al., 2000). In the present study, we found that 36%
of sexually active women have had intercourse with someone once and only once
and 29% of sexually active women have had intercourse with someone they had
known for less than 24 hr. Despite the significant percentage of women engaging in
hookups, these behaviors are linked to sexual regret for women. Our findings show
why colleges and universities need to help make women fully aware of the implica
-
tions of conforming to the social norms of the college environment. Discussions
about the relationship between hooking up and sexual regret could play a helpful
role in these conversations. Our results demonstrate that even though hooking up is
popular on college campuses, women are not necessarily doing it without regret.
Eshbaugh & Gute 87
AUTHOR NOTES
Elaine M. Eshbaugh is an assistant professor of family studies at the University of
Northern Iowa in Cedar Falls. Her main research interests are sexuality among emergent
adults and teen parenthood. Gary Gute is an assistant professor of family studies at the
University of Northern Iowa. His main research interests are sexuality among undergradu
-
ate students, family influence on creativity, and psychological complexity.
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Received February 27, 2007
Accepted May 23, 2007
Eshbaugh & Gute 89
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... In addition to biological health risks, hookups pose disparate risks to young women's mental health, including reduced self-esteem, stigmatization, symptoms of anxiety and/or depression, and worries about health consequences, relationship outcomes, and reputation damage (Berntson et al., 2014;Curtin et al., 2011;Eshbaugh & Gute, 2008;Hutton et al., 2015;Paul & Hayes, 2002;Paul et al., 2000;Turchik & Garske, 2008;Vrangalova, 2015). While repeated hookups may produce greater mental distress, even a one-time hookup with a male known for less than 24 h may make young women susceptible to negative emotionality linked to depression (Eshbaugh & Gute, 2008;Stinson, 2010). ...
... In addition to biological health risks, hookups pose disparate risks to young women's mental health, including reduced self-esteem, stigmatization, symptoms of anxiety and/or depression, and worries about health consequences, relationship outcomes, and reputation damage (Berntson et al., 2014;Curtin et al., 2011;Eshbaugh & Gute, 2008;Hutton et al., 2015;Paul & Hayes, 2002;Paul et al., 2000;Turchik & Garske, 2008;Vrangalova, 2015). While repeated hookups may produce greater mental distress, even a one-time hookup with a male known for less than 24 h may make young women susceptible to negative emotionality linked to depression (Eshbaugh & Gute, 2008;Stinson, 2010). ...
... These findings are relevant to a college counseling context because sexual risk, low sexual satisfaction, and low sexual knowledge can impact emergent adults' mental and physical health (Adefuye et al., 2011;Berntson et al., 2014;Curtin et al., 2011;Davis et al., 2007;Eshbaugh & Gute, 2008;Lance, 2001;Opt & Loffredo, 2004;Turchik & Garske, 2008). In college counseling, the adoption of a sex-positive approach may benefit the work with emergent adults around concerns about sexuality and sexual health, especially with those who are at high sexual health risk and whose sexuality have been historically marginalized, such as Black women. ...
Article
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Collegiate hookups often involve sexual behaviors that place students at risk for unwanted pregnancies and for contracting HIV and other sexually transmitted infections (STIs) with African American women at disparate risk. While several studies have shown adequate sexual knowledge does not necessarily translate into safer sexual behaviors, the relationship between sexual risk and sexual satisfaction has remained unexplored despite sexual satisfaction being a major motivator of sexual conduct. The current study examines the association between sexual knowledge, sexual satisfaction, and sexual risk among undergraduate students at Historically Black Colleges and Universities in the Southeastern United States based on a sex positive approach to STI prevention. Gender, history of partnered sex, and “virginity” pledges were explored as possible moderators. Three hundred African American/Black, predominantly freshmen, and Christian students completed related surveys. Overall participants had low sexual knowledge with women better than men. Males reported more sexually risky behaviors but students without history of partnered sex reported fewer. “Virginity” pledges were unrelated to sexual risk taking. Overall, participants were more sexually satisfied than dissatisfied with no gender differences. There was no significant relationship between sexual knowledge and sexual satisfaction for either gender, with varying degrees of sexual satisfaction at all risk levels. Gender weakly moderated the relationship between sexual risk and sexual satisfaction regardless of history of partnered sex. Results bode well for the development of a sex positive approach to STI and unwanted pregnancy prevention.
... 2 Although alcohol is one of the most highly cited reasons students give for engaging in a hookup, this study will focus solely on internal drives. 5,7,12 Kenney et al 2 conducted a factor analysis to more clearly capture the wide array of internal drives for hooking up. They identified five major dimensions of hookup motives, including a desire for general pleasure (enhancement), sexual pleasure without a committed relationship (social-sexual), a desire for a relationship (relationship-seeking), a way to cope with negative feelings (coping), and a way to conform (conformity). ...
... 3,9 The most common predictors of experiencing regret following a hookup were knowing the partner for less than 24 hours, having a "one night stand," and having unprotected sex. 9,12 Hooking up while intoxicated also increased college students' likelihood of experiencing regret after the hookup. 7 ...
... Men tend to report regret over inaction (eg wishing they would have done a sexual behavior), while women tend to experience regret of action (eg wishing they had not engaged in sexual behavior). 12,19 Women are also more likely to experience short-term psychological distress, shame, and doubt following a hookup. 5,12 This may be attributed to the double standard of sexuality for men and women in which men are praised for sexual experience and women are shamed. ...
Article
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Objective Previous research has found that college students experience both positive and negative outcomes after a hookup. The present study examined the role that hookup motives and sex play in determining the overall positivity and negativity of the experience. Participants: College students (N = 156) completed an online survey about their most recent hookup. Method: The survey assessed hookup motivations and outcomes. Results: Lower coping motives and higher social-sexual, relationship-seeking, and enhancement motives predicted more positive outcomes. Higher coping motives and lower social-sexual, conformity, and enhancement motives predicted more negative outcomes. For men, positive outcomes were correlated with weaker enhancement motives, while negative outcomes were correlated with more enhancement motives. For women, higher levels of positive outcomes were positively correlated with enhancement, social-sexual, and relationship-seeking motives, while negative outcomes were negatively correlated with social-sexual, enhancement, and coping motives. Conclusions: The results of this study have implications for risk prevention and future research.
... While it is developmentally normal to experiment with both sexual behaviors and substance use during adolescence (Harden, 2014;Masten et al., 2008), sex in the context of substance use places young people at risk for a variety of negative outcomes. These outcomes could include sexual assault (Abbey et al., 2014;Anderson et al., 2019;Gatley et al., 2017;Testa et al., 2019;Walsh et al., 2021;Wilhite et al., 2018); unprotected sex (Hendershot et al., 2010;Kerr et al., 2015;LaBrie et al., 2005;Simons et al., 2018), pregnancy (Lundsberg et al., 2018;Naimi et al., 2003), sexually transmitted infections (Baliunas et al., 2010;Crosby et al., 2008;Rehm et al., 2017), and sex with casual partners (Kiene et al., 2009;White et al., 2009), which potentially may lead to regret (Bachtel, 2013;Eshbaugh & Gute, 2008). ...
Article
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Little research has examined adolescents’ perspectives of sex with substance use. This study examined (1) adolescents’ perceived benefits and risks of sex with substance use, as well as boundaries; (2) the potential for positive and negative social influences among adolescents when they discuss these topics; and (3) whether exposure to health-promoting content is associated with trajectories of sex with substance use over a 6-month period. To address the first two objectives, 176 comments were analyzed from 71 adolescents (90% female) aged 14–18 years who participated in an Internet-based sexual health promotion intervention and posted to at least one message board addressing sex with substance use. Adolescents’ perceived benefits and risks of sex with substance use primarily reflected concern for the experience of sex in the moment; perceived risks and boundaries primarily reflected concern for the ability to develop and maintain meaningful relationships. Comments of 63% and 22% of adolescents, respectively, were evaluated to have potential for health-promoting and risk-promoting social influence. To address the third objective, trajectories of self-reported sex with substance use were compared between 89 intervention and 54 control participants. No significant differences were observed. However, a dose–response effect was observed; intervention participants who completed less than one third of assigned tasks reported increases in sex with alcohol or marijuana use over time, while no marked changes or much smaller changes in sex with substance use were observed among intervention participants who completed one third or more tasks. Implications for prevention and intervention programs are discussed.
... Early sexual debut, whether coerced or not, can also be associated with negative emotional experiences such as regret. "Regret" has been defined as a negative cognitive emotion, often accompanied by feelings of self-blame, disappointment with one self for action or inaction, and thoughts that the present would be different had one acted differently (Eshbaugh & Gute, 2008;Oswalt et al., 2005). Studies from Europe, North and South America, and Asia describe young people regretting their first sexual experience, or reporting sentiments of wishing they had waited longer to have their first sex (Cotton et al., 2004;Osorio et al., 2012;Wight et al., 2000). ...
Article
Full-text available
We compared first sex experiences and wellbeing of adolescent girls and young women (AGYW) who had an early sexual debut (age < 15) with those who had later sexual debut. We conducted a representative household survey among AGYW aged 15-24 years in six districts in South Africa. Of 3009 AGYW who had ever had sex, 8.9% reported early sexual debut. Early sexual debut was associated with coercion at first sex and a lower average well-being score compared with a later debut. Interventions which aim to delay early sexual debut may positively affect well-being.
... Existing research on hookup behaviors and consequences has been limited in two main respects. First, there has been a focus on hookup activities as a risky sexual behavior with negative consequences, such as regret, embarrassment, emotional distress, and/or unwanted sexual experiences (Bachtel, 2013;Eshbaugh & Gute, 2008;Flack et al., 2007;Lewis et al., 2012). This continues despite evidence that hookups are now normative behaviors for which most emerging adults report benefits or positive reactions (Olmstead, Norona, & Anders, 2019;Paul & Hayes, 2002;Shepardson, Walsh, Carey, & Carey, 2016;Snapp, Ryu, & Kerr, 2015;Stinson, 2010). ...
Article
Full-text available
Hooking up, which refers to a sexual encounter (ranging from kissing to penetrative sex) between individuals who are not in a committed relationship, is an increasingly normative form of sexual exploration among emerging adults. Past research has focused on hookups within a heteronormative context, and some of this work has examined hookups as a way to cope with distress. Building on this work, we examined the role of hookups as a means for lesbian and bisexual women to cope with minority stress through increasing connection and engagement with the LGBTQ (lesbian/gay/bisexual/transgender/queer or questioning) community. A nationally recruited sample of 520 lesbian and bisexual women ages 18 to 25 years completed questionnaires regarding their hookup behaviors as part of a longitudinal study. Childhood sexual abuse, posttraumatic stress symptoms, alcohol use, minority stress, and involvement and connectedness with the LGBTQ community were also assessed. First, regression analyses were used to examine baseline predictors of hookup behaviors reported at a 12-month follow-up. Findings revealed that alcohol use was associated with a greater likelihood of any subsequent hookups, and individuals reporting more minority stress subsequently hooked up with more partners. Second, hookup behaviors at 12 months were examined as predictors of outcomes at a 24-month follow-up, after controlling for baseline variables. Findings revealed that hookup behaviors were associated with reduced minority stress as well as increased involvement with and connectedness to the LGBTQ community, suggesting hookups may serve a protective function. Overall, findings support the notion that, for sexual minority women, hookups may operate as a means of coping and connection.
... Concerns and issues. Engaging in both sexual coercion and risky sexual behaviors are known to increase the probability of suffering negative consequences (Cooper, 2002), including increased risk of contracting sexually transmitted diseases (STDs) and experiencing psychological distress (Eshbaugh & Gute, 2008). In the college Figure 4. Knight and Sims-Knight's (2004) (Weinstock, Berman, & Cates, 2004). ...
... No sex difference was found for other forms of regret (e.g., romantic nonsexual regret). This pattern has been replicated in other societies (e.g., Fisher et al., 2012), and more gender egalitarian samples (e.g., Kennair et al., 2016), and action regret in women seems to be specifically related to coital sex as opposed to other sexual behaviors (Eshbaugh & Gute, 2008). Within each sex, sociosexual orientation seems to influence the amount of regret, with less restricted individuals reporting less action regret (Kennair et al., 2016). ...
Article
Full-text available
In several recent papers the sex difference in regret predicted by sexual strategies theory has been supported: men more than women report regret passing up short-term sexual opportunities (inaction regret), while women regret having had sexual encounters (action regret). However, the adaptive function of regret, to improve future behavioral choices, has not been tested. In this first longitudinal test of behavioral change following regret, we consider whether regret actually results in adaptive shifts of behavior: will men who regret passing up sex engage in more short-term sex following regret? Will women who regret short-term encounters either choose better quality partners, reduce number of one-night stands or shift their strategy to long-term relationships? Across two waves (NT1 = 399, 65.4% women and NT2 = 222, 66.2% women) students responded to questions about casual sex action regret and inaction regret, along with possible outcomes, intrapersonal traits, and concurrent contextual predictors. There was no clear evidence for the proposed functional shifts in sexual behavior. Casual sex regret was associated with respondent sex and stable individual differences, such as sociosexual attitudes, regret processing and metacognitions, but the effect of these predictors were not consistent across the two waves. Among the tested concurrent contextual predictors, sexual disgust was the most consistent across waves. Regret is considered a gauge of the value and quality of the short-term sexual encounter. However, tentatively we conclude that after this first test of function using longitudinal data, we find no evidence of a mating strategy shifting effect following sexual regret.
... Oswalt et al., 2005). Engaging in sexual intercourse once (i.e., a one night stand) and having sexual intercourse with someone known for less than 24 hours are other reasons people reported experiences of sexual regret (Eshbaugh & Gute, 2008). In 2005, Oswalt and colleagues requested future research on what emotions are experienced after sexual regret, such as guilt or anxiety. ...
Article
Full-text available
One of the most pervasive forms of regret, often connected to alcohol use, is sexual regret. Lifetime rates of regretted sexual experiences (RSE) for college students is between 29%-71.9%, with 31.8% endorsing past year RSE and 31.7% stating alcohol negatively influenced decision making. While past research has focused on psychological symptoms following sexual assault, psychological effects and subsequent outcomes of RSE remains under-studied. Whether a history of sexual regret is associated with mental health symptoms, alcohol use, and protective behavioral strategy (PBS) use in the past month was analyzed. Participants (n = 1,394; 57.68% females, 26.96% racial/ethnic minority) reported on internalizing symptoms (anxiety, depression, trauma symptoms and suicidal ideation) and externalizing and protective behaviors (problematic alcohol use and PBS). It was hypothesized that those with a history of RSE would report heightened current psychological symptoms compared to those without a history of RSE, regardless of when the RSE occurred. Of the n = 1,394 participants, 39.96% reported sexual regret and 26.11% endorsed a history of sexual victimization. Results indicate that among participants with an RSE, past month symptoms of anxiety, depression, trauma, and suicidal ideation were heightened. A similar pattern emerged for problematic alcohol use, as those with a history of RSE engaged in more problematic alcohol use in the past month. For PBS, those with a history of RSE engaged in fewer PBS than those without. Understanding these factors may provide novel insight for mental health prevention efforts and intervention targets for individuals who have regretted sexual experiences.
Article
This study is based on the narratives of four young Swedish women, who were interviewed about their experiences of heterosexual casual sex. The analyses are based on phenomenological sociology and focus on sequences in which the participants orient towards shame in connection with casual sexual encounters. The results show that the participants struggle with shame before, during, and after casual sex, that they do so in relation to a great variety of people, places, and situations, and that they through their experiences encounter a complex set of socializing forces. Hence, despite coming of age in a very liberal sexual environment, the social conditions of the young women's casual sexual encounters appear as highly challenging. Different audiences, selves, and voices, which do not always blend well together, create a crossfire of conflicting ideals, expectations, and feelings. To alleviate the sexual shame that often seems to beset young women, methods of sex education need to focus on scrutinizing cultural practices rather than the individual.
Article
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Although sexual experiences are normative by young adulthood, individuals continue to explore and develop their sexual behaviors and cognitions across the college years. Thus, perceived consequences of sexual experiences may change. Similarly, characteristics of sexual experiences such as partner type, alcohol use, and sexual behavior type predict perceived consequences, and these associations may change over time. In this study, we addressed links between characteristics of sexual experiences (casual vs. committed partner, heavy alcohol use on sex days, and kissing/touching only vs. oral/penetrative sex) and short-term perceived consequences of sexual experiences (physical satisfaction, emotional intimacy, not satisfied, guilt, not ready), using daily data collected longitudinally across seven college semesters. We also examined whether perceived consequences of sex change across college and whether within-person daily associations between sexual experience characteristics and perceived consequences of sex change across college. An ethnically and racially diverse sample of traditionally aged first year university students (N = 566; 54% female; 98% heterosexual) completed online surveys, yielding 8,838 daily reports about sexual behaviors. Multilevel models indicated that partner type, heavy alcohol use, and sexual behavior type predicted within-person differences in perceived consequences of sex. Interactions between characteristics of sexual experiences and college semester indicated that differences in perceived consequences of sexual experiences with casual versus committed partners lessened over time. The likelihood of reporting physical satisfaction and guilt after only kissing/touching (but not oral/penetrative sex) decreased across college semesters. Findings inform understanding of normative sexual development by demonstrating that perceived consequences and their predictors change across time.
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This article deals with the rationality and functionality of the existence of regret and its influence on decision making. First, regret is defined as a negative, cognitively based emotion that we experience when realizing or imagining that our present situation would have been better had we acted differently. Next, it is discussed whether this experience can be considered rational and it is argued that rationality only applies to what we do with our regrets, not to the experience itself. Then, research is reviewed showing that both the anticipation of future regret and the experience of retrospective regret influence behavior. The influence of anticipated regret can be considered rational as long as the decision maker can accurately predict the regret that may result from the decision. The influence of experienced regret cannot be considered rational, since decisions should be based on future outcomes, not historical ones. However, influence of experienced regret can be called functional since it may result in increased learning from our mistakes.
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Do people reduce dissonance more for their errors of commission than their errors of omission? More specifically, do people come to value a disappointing outcome obtained through a direct action more than an identical outcome obtained through a failure to act? To answer this question, the authors created a laboratory analogue of the "three doors" or "Monty Hall" problem. Subjects initially selected one box from a group of three, only one of which contained a "grand" prize. After the experimenter opened one of the two unchosen boxes and revealed a modest prize, subjects were asked to decide whether to stay with their initial selection or trade it in for the other unopened box. Regardless of the subject's choice, a modest prize was received. Results indicated that subjects who switched boxes assigned a higher monetary value to the modest prize they received than those who stayed with their initial choice. Implications for the psychology of regret are discussed.
Article
Legal scholars have developed two dominant theories of litigation behavior: the Economic Theory of Suit and Settlement, which is based on expected utility theory, and the Framing Theory of Litigation, which is based on prospect theory. While Professor Guthrie acknowledges the explanatory power of these theories, he argues that they are flawed because they portray litigants solely as calculating creatures. These theories disregard any role emotion might play in litigation decision making. Guthrie proposes a complementary theory - the Regret Aversion Theory of Litigation Behavior - that views litigants as both calculating and emotional creatures. With roots in economics, cognitive psychology, and social psychology, the Regret Aversion Theory predicts that individuals will seek to make decisions that minimize the likelihood they will experience postdecision regret. Because regret is most likely to arise when individuals discover that they would have obtained better outcomes if they had decided differently, the Regret Aversion Theory predicts that people will make decisions that shield them from this knowledge. Using an experimental survey methodology, Guthrie tests this theory in the litigation context and finds that litigants, when choosing between settlement and trial, systematically prefer settlement because it minimizes the likelihood that they will experience regret. Settling reduces regret by allowing litigants to avoid discovering that trial might have been the better decision; trial offers no such protection. Guthrie concludes by examining the implications of the Regret Aversion Theory for lawyers and for the legal system as a whole.
Article
This study of university students investigated the circumstances surrounding their loss of virginity. Females were significantly more likely than males to discuss with their partner the prospect of having sex before intercourse actually occurred; be involved in a dating relationship; consider themselves to be "in love" with their partner; feel pressured by their partner to have intercourse; regret having intercourse soon afterwards; and on looking back, wish that they had not lost their virginity at that time. Both genders reported only mediocre ratings of emotional and physical satisfaction, and those students who reported experiencing "meaningful" sex education at middle or high school before losing their virginity were significantly more likely to delay sexual debut than were those students who had not received sex education. Recommendations for the inclusion of this type of data in sex education programming is suggested in order to balance the more glamorous sexuality messages often portrayed in the popular media.
Article
Decision research has only recently started to take seriously the role of emotions in choices and decisions. Regret is the emotion that has received the most attention. In this article, we sample a number of the initial regret studies from psychology and economics, and trace some of the complexities and contradictions to which they led. We then sketch a new theory, decision justification theory (DJT), which synthesizes several apparently conflicting findings. DJT postulates two core components of decision–related regret, one associated with the (comparative) evaluation of the outcome, the other with the feeling of self–blame for having made a poor choice. We reinterpret several existing studies in DJT terms. We then report some new studies that directly tested (and support) DJT, and propose a number of research issues that follow from this new approach to regret.
Article
One of the most prominent features of the current college campus environment is the casual sex practice of the hookup. Hookups are defined as a sexual encounter between two people who are brief acquaintances or strangers, usually lasting only one night without the expectation of developing a relationship (Paul, McManus, & Hayes, 2000). Although there is a vast literature on college students' casual sexual attitudes and behavior, there is little attention to (a) subjective or experiential elements of and (b) the heterogeneity of casual sexual experiences. The goal of this study was to explore the varied phenomenology or experiential reality of college students' casual sexual hookup experiences. A structured questionnaire soliciting open responses regarding college students' views of a typical hookup and reports of their best and worst hookup experiences was administered to 187 college students. Responses were microanalytically content analyzed and globally thematically analyzed. College students' accounts of hookup experiences included behavioral, situational, cognitive, and emotional elements. As expected, although there was relative uniformity in college students' descriptions of a typical hookup, there was wide variation in college students' descriptions of their best and worst hookup experiences. Moreover, whereas there were few differences between males' and females' descriptions of what transpired, there were some sex differences in descriptions of what was felt after actual casual sexual experiences and in interpretations of why experiences were good or bad.
Article
Men (n = 83) and women (n = 86) at nine dating bars in Ontario, Canada, were surveyed to determine gender differences in self‐reported casual sex and AIDS‐prevention behavior. Data analysis focused on 169 bar patrons who had experienced sexual intercourse. More men than women had some experience with casual sex. The women had as many sexual partners as the men, but were less likely to anticipate having casual sex and reported less enjoyment and more guilt about casual sex than did the men. Almost all men and women had declined at least one opportunity to have casual sex. Women expressed greater fear of being physically harmed during a casual encounter and were more concerned about the risks of AIDS and other sexually transmitted diseases than were men. Although the respondents reported favourable attitudes toward condoms, many had not used condoms during their last experience with casual sex. Women reported stronger intentions to use condoms during casual sex than did men, but there was no gender difference in actual condom use. The findings underline the value of focusing on casual sexual relationships, and we hope that these results will encourage other researchers to study casual relationships in a diversity of contexts.
Article
This study assesses high risk/low risk safer sex behaviors among a selected sample (n = 403) of homosexual and heterosexual college students on a campus in northern Texas. An 18-item validated questionnaire was administered to 75 students from a homosexual student association, 85 heterosexual fraternity/sorority members, and 243 heterosexual non-fraternity/sorority members from a sample of college classes. Seven items on the questionnaire requested demographic information, one item related to HIV status, and 10 items identified safer sex behaviors practiced by respondents in the past six months because of their fears of contracting HIV. These 10 items formed a Safer Sex Scale (SSS). Homosexual subjects were more likely to report being HIV negative, whereas heterosexual subjects were more uncertain about their HIV status (x2 = 14.43, p<.001). Females (M = 2.22) more than males (M = 2.71) (t = 8.08, p<.001), heterosexuals (M = 2.42) more than homosexuals (M = 2.59) (t = 2.46, p<.05), and non-whites (M = 2.23) more than whites (M = 2.52) (t = 3.38, p<.001) valued and practiced safer sex behavior. ANOVA produced significant differences (p <.001) on the SSS among respondents and their reported safer sex behaviors with dates in the past six months. Significant differences (p <.05) were also found for the number of sexual partners in the past six months and for the reported frequency of sexual intercourse in the last six months.
Article
This study focused on a specific risky practice common among contemporary college students: the hookup. Hookups are defined as a sexual encounter which may or may not include sexual intercourse, usually occurring on only one occasion between two people who are strangers or brief acquaintances. The aim of this study was to determine the relative importance of a variety of social and psychological predictors in understanding differences among undergraduate students who had never hooked up, those who had hooked up without sexual intercourse, and those who had hooked up with sexual intercourse. Analyses revealed that, as predicted, social, individual, and relational psychological variables helped to explain the variance among college students' varied hookup experiences. By examining the full range of sexual involvement characteristic of the casual sexual phenomenon of hooking up within a multivariate model, we were able to achieve a more differentiated understanding of college students' casual sexual experimentation.
Article
This . . . book is the first to present a unified theory of human mating behavior. [It] is based on the most massive study of human mating ever undertaken, encompassing more than 10,000 people of all ages from thirty-seven cultures worldwide. If we all want love, why is there so much conflict in our most cherished relationships? To answer this question, we must look into our evolutionary past, according to David M. Buss. The book discusses casual sex and long-term relationships, sexual conflict, the elusive quest for harmony between the sexes, and much more. Buss's research leads to a radical shift from the standard view of men's and women's sexual psychology. (PsycINFO Database Record (c) 2012 APA, all rights reserved)