Assignment 2: Research Report
Sex differences in responses to emotional and sexual infidelity
Please note that this handout contains a general description of the study and the reasoning behind it. You must NOT simply copy text from this handout into your Lab Report – to do so will be considered plagiarism and will be treated accordingly.
Infidelity is the act of being unfaithful to one’s spouse or sexual partner, and it can involve sexual activity, emotional intimacy, or both. While sexual activity and emotional intimacy frequently co-occur in cases of infidelity, sexual activity with another may occur in the absence of emotional intimacy, and emotional intimacy with another may develop in the absence of sexual activity. These aspects of infidelity are referred to as sexual and emotional infidelity respectively.
Emotional infidelity, like sexual infidelity, can be extremely upsetting and damaging to a relationship. However, the two types of infidelity may not be equally upsetting to men and women. It has been reported that women are more distressed by emotional infidelity than men, while men are more distressed by sexual infidelity than women.
The theoretical explanation for this sex difference, originally proposed by Buss and colleagues, is based on evolutionary adaptation. According to this theory, males and females faced different adaptive challenges, which led to the development of different jealousy systems. The challenge for females was to ensure their partner remained invested in their offspring, to help maximise their chances of survival. Therefore, females developed a jealousy system that is most sensitive to their partner forming an emotional attachment to another person. For males, the challenge was to ensure they were indeed the biological father of any child they invested in. Evolutionarily, it would be pointless to invest their energies in raising a child that was not genetically related. Therefore, males have developed a jealousy system that is most sensitive to sexual infidelity. According to this theory, sex differences in responses to emotional and sexual infidelity are due to males and females having different biologically evolved jealousy systems. In other words, males and females are ‘hardwired’ to respond differently to each type of infidelity.
While many studies have found a sex difference in which type of infidelity is most upsetting, there is also considerable variability within sexes. That is, some males report emotional infidelity as most distressing and some females report sexual infidelity as most distressing. Researchers have examined a number of factors that may explain this within-sex variability (and perhaps even the between-sex difference), including relationship status, previous experience of infidelity, sexual orientation, sex roles, and attachment style. It is the last of these, attachment style, that we will focus on in this study.
Levy and Kelly (2010) and Burchell and Ward (2011) examined whether attachment style moderated sex differences in jealousy and found that it did. That is, they found that the reported sex difference, with males choosing sexual infidelity as most distressing more frequently than females, was found among participants with some attachment styles but not others. Others, though, have failed to find an effect of attachment style (Brase et al., 2014).
THE CURRENT STUDY
The aim of this study is to investigate whether men and women differ in their responses to sexual and emotional infidelity and, if so, whether any sex differences are moderated by attachment style.
Design and IVs:
In the survey you were presented with two hypothetical scenarios describing an act of infidelity. One of these involved sexual infidelity but no emotional infidelity. The other involved emotional infidelity but no sexual infidelity. After reading each scenario you were asked to imagine how you would feel if this situation happened to you and to indicate how you would feel and what you would think on various response scales.
We also measured attachment style using the general form of the ECR scale (Brennan, Clark & Shaver, 1998). Based on their responses, participants were categorised into Bartholomew and Horrowitz’s (1991) four categories of attachment style (Secure, Preoccupied, Dismissive, Fearful), by dichotomising the anxiety and avoidance dimensions by median split. Participants were categorised into one of the four attachment styles based on whether they were high or low on anxiety and avoidance, as follows:
The sex of participants was measured with a single self-report question asking “What is your sex?”, with response options of “male”, “female”, and “other”. An “other” option was included to accommodate any intersex participants. We are using ‘sex’ as an IV in this study, rather than ‘gender’, because we are testing an evolutionary theory that predicts a difference based on biological sex. It is an interesting question whether the reported differences between men and women in response to infidelity are best understood as related to ‘sex’ or ‘gender’. However, in line with the evolutionary theory we will use ‘sex’ as the IV in our study.
The study was conducted as a 2 (participant sex: male vs. female,) by 4 (attachment style: secure, preoccupied, dismissive, fearful) experimental design. It is a 2 x 4 design because there are two independent variables, one with two levels and one with four levels. Furthermore, it is a between groups design because each cell of the design contains a different set of participants (i.e. each participant is either male or female, and in only one of the attachment style categories).
The dependent variable was how upsetting each type of infidelity was imagined to be. This was measured with a binary choice measure in which you were asked to choose which of the two scenarios you would find most upsetting.
Henceforth, the key variables in this study will be labelled as follows:
Participant_Sex: This variable codes the sex of the participant. 0 = male, 1 = female.
Attachment_category: This variable codes participants’ attachment style. 0 = secure, 1 = dismissive, 2 = preoccupied, 3 = fearful.
Binary: This variable codes whether a participant chose sexual or emotional infidelity as most upsetting; 1 = sexual, 2 = emotional
KEY QUESTIONS OF THIS RESEARCH REPORT
In this research report, you will be asking the following questions:
Previous research has found men are more likely to choose sexual infidelity as most upsetting, whereas women are more likely to choose emotional infidelity as most upsetting. Do you find this pattern in your data?
This question refers to whether certain types of attachment style are more common amongst men or women. Previous research suggests men are more likely than women to have a dismissive style, while women are more likely than men to have a preoccupied style. Is this pattern replicated in your data?
Are people in each attachment style category equally likely to find sexual or emotional infidelity most upsetting, or do the attachment style groups differ in this regard?
This question addresses whether the reported sex difference in which type of infidelity is most upsetting is found across all attachment styles, or whether it is more pronounced among some attachment styles than others.
The first thing you will need to do is construct hypotheses that reflect these questions. They are what you think the answers to the above questions will be as shown by the data. You should review the relevant literature, and from that literature, derive logical predictions about what we will find in this study in relation to the four Research Questions outlined above. Remember, when stating your hypotheses, you need to specify the direction of any main effects or interaction effects.
ANALYSES TO TEST YOUR HYPOTHESES
By the end of Week 4 of semester, you will be given a data set that you will analyse to test your hypotheses. At that time, you will also be given a Data Analysis Handout, to guide you in conducting your analyses. Statistics Help tutorials will be held in Week 6 of semester, to answer questions you might have once you have conducted your analyses.
You will need to conduct statistical analyses to:
Detailed notes on how to conduct and interpret this analysis will be provided in the Data Analysis Handout, which will be released to you at the same time as the data that you will analyse.
For more information about the measures in this study, you should refer to the document called “Measures used in the study”, which is provided for you on Blackboard. This document contains information about the items in the questionnaire, as well as information about how scores were calculated for each of the variables in the analyses that you will conduct.
INSTRUCTIONS FOR WRITING UP THE RESEARCH REPORT
The report is worth 40% of your final grade in the unit, and will be marked out of 100. The breakdown of marks (out of 100) is given below.
Introduction (24 marks): A useful format for the Introduction is to structure it in terms of the following (major) sections: (1) Describe context of the research in terms of the nature of jealousy, sexual and emotional infidelity, and gender differences in responses to infidelity. These concepts should be clearly defined when first introduced; (2) Discuss the finding that men and women differ in their responses to emotional and sexual infidelity. (3) Discuss the different theoretical accounts of the sex difference. (4) Describe research examining the role of attachment style in responses to sexual and emotional infidelity. (5) State the aim(s), research questions, and hypotheses of the study. Most of the intellectual energy that goes into this report should be directed towards the theoretical and empirical rationale provided for the hypotheses. Formulate hypotheses that reflect the study aims. Justify hypotheses by tying them to related research so they flow smoothly and directly from the literature.
Method (12 marks): Include subheadings for Design, Participants, Measures, and Procedure. The Design section should describe the 2 x 4 experimental design. The dependent variable should also be specified. The Participants section should describe the nature of the individuals who participated in the research. The Measures section should describe the main concepts that were measured or manipulated and the questions or scenarios used to do so. The Procedure should describe how the survey was administered and should include a description of any instructions given, randomisation and counterbalancing of conditions, etc.
Results (16 marks): This report is not a test of your statistical knowledge and you will be given data analysis guidelines to assist you later in the semester. The statistics should be used as a tool to demonstrate whether or not the expected theoretical relationships are supported. You will be expected to present the results with the help of tables or figures, as appropriate. The data file will be available on Blackboard in Week 4, and Statistics Help tutorials will be held in Week 6. While you wait for the data, it is recommended that you read all the essential references, and start to have a clear idea of what arguments you are going to make.
Discussion (24 marks): Discuss the findings in relation to the aims and hypotheses and literature cited in your Introduction. Were your hypotheses supported? If so, what evidence is there that the results are reflecting “true” relationships versus methodological factors? If they were not supported, discuss possible reasons for this. Discuss limitations of the study (these should be tied directly to the results) and provide suggestions for future research. Provide conclusions relating to gender differences in response to infidelity, and the theoretical explanations of these differences.
Your report should also include a Title Page, Abstract, and References. The Abstract (6 marks) should be no more than 150 words in length. Marks will also be awarded for overall integration (8 marks) and references and presentation (10 marks). The references you have been given should be sufficient to begin your literature review. However, you should explore the relevant literature further and include additional references in your report.
The Research Report should be a maximum 3000 words, with +/- 10% flexibility on the word count. This word limit does NOT include Title page, Tables, Figures, or References, but it does include the Abstract. As an approximate guide, use the following: Abstract (150 words), Introduction (approx. 1000 words), Method and Results (approx. 850 words combined), Discussion (approx. 1000 words).
Your assignment should be typed and double-spaced using a standard 12 point font. Use APA formatting throughout, including for Tables and Figures. You may place your tables and figures within the Results section (i.e., no need to use the manuscript submission convention of placing tables at the end of the article). Do not attach the materials, questionnaire or SPSS printouts of your results to your Research Report. As your formatting guide, refer to the APA Publication Manual.
Your assignment must be submitted as a single document, via Blackboard, no later than 11:55pm on Friday, October 27, 2017. A cover sheet must be completed by you and included as the first page of the submitted assignment. Standard assessment cover sheets can be found here: http://www.swinburne.edu.au/student-administration/docs/student/Cover_sheet_for_submission_of_work_for_assessment.pdf
Your assignment will be submitted in Turnitin (through BlackBoard). Well in advance of your submission, you should familiarise yourself with the documentation in the folder called “Turnitin Information”, which you will find under the “Assessments” tab on BlackBoard.
You must check that your assignment submission has correctly uploaded, in an acceptable file format, well in advance of the deadline. Allow plenty of time to correct any technical difficulties, as they will not be considered the basis for any extension.
As per the unit outline, a penalty of 10% per day (including weekends) applies for late submissions, and submissions more than 5 days late will receive zero marks.
Extensions may be granted in exceptional circumstances. Requests for extensions of 7 days or less must be submitted to your tutor in writing, before the assignment due date. Requests for extensions of 8 days or more must be submitted to the university’s online special consideration (SPC) tool, no later than three working days after the due date. Immediately upon submitting an extension request to the SPC online tool, students should also email their tutor to notify their tutor that they are requesting an extension via the SPC online tool, as well as the length of the extension they are requesting. All extension requests must be accompanied by appropriate documentation (i.e. a medical certificate for illness, a counsellor’s/psychologist’s letter for psychological issues or personal circumstances). The documentation should indicate the length of time for which the student was impacted by the illness/circumstance. Remember that pressure of other work (whether university work or paid work) does not count as a basis for an extension. Extension requests on the grounds of stress or anxiety will only be considered if it can be demonstrated that the issue is chronic and of a medical nature. Students should not assume that they will be granted an extension until they are notified of its approval.
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