Archives of Sexual Behavior

, Volume 44, Issue 8, pp 2267–2271 | Cite as

Contextual Influences on Men’s Perceptions of Women’s Sexual Interest

  • Teresa A. Treat
  • Richard J. Viken
  • Sharday Summers
Original Paper


The current study evaluated whether the sexual relevance of the social environment potentiated men’s judgments of women’s sexual interest, particularly among men reporting more frequent misperception of a potential partner’s sexual interest. Twenty-eight scenes were constructed depicting social environments that were either lower or higher in sexual relevance (e.g., office vs. bar). A full-body photograph of one of 14 college-aged women was inserted into each scene; the women all expressed neutral-to-positive affect and varied in provocativeness of dress and attractiveness. A total of 237 undergraduate males viewed each scene and judged how sexually interested and friendly each woman felt. Sexually relevant social environments potentiated men’s judgments of women’s sexual interest far more than their friendliness. This effect was stronger among more conservatively dressed women and among men reporting more frequent experiences of misperceiving a woman’s sexual interest. The findings highlight the contextualized nature of emotional perception, whereby perception of emotion is potentiated in congruent, relative to incongruent, contexts.


Context Affect Social perception Multilevel modeling Sexual interest 


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Copyright information

© Springer Science+Business Media New York 2015

Authors and Affiliations

  • Teresa A. Treat
    • 1
  • Richard J. Viken
    • 2
  • Sharday Summers
    • 2
  1. 1.Department of PsychologyUniversity of IowaIowa CityUSA
  2. 2.Department of Psychological and Brain SciencesIndiana UniversityBloomingtonUSA

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