Illusions of Safety in a Risky World: A Study of College Students' Condom Use


Correspondence concerning this article should be addressed to Suzanne C. Thompson, Department of Psychology, Pomona College, Claremont, CA 91711.


The role that costs, benefits, and perceptions of invulnerability play in condom use was examined in a sample of students (N= 211) at 4-year and 2-year colleges. In multiple regression analyses, past condom use was related to relative invulnerability, low present risk, and inexperience. Less intended condom use was associated with high perceptions of relative invulnerability and low perceptions of present risk. It appears that many college students feel protected from HIV because they judge their current sexual environment to be safe due to monogamy, sexual history taking, and the ability to tell a partner's HIV status. Independent of that, feelings of relative invulnerability are associated with more condom use—perhaps an accurate judgment of past risky behavior.