Investigating the implicit theories of rape-prone men using an interpretative bias task



Purpose. Ward (2000) has hypothesized that sexual offenders hold offence supportive implicit theories (ITs) or schemata that function to facilitate or maintain offending behaviour. The present research aimed to determine whether rape-prone men hold the same offence supportive ITs as those that have been identified in rapists.

Method. This study adopted both an explicit measure of ITs and also an implicit measure of ITs (an interpretative bias task). In the implicit task, participants viewed ambiguous stimuli (one-sentence statements) that may be interpreted in either a rape-supportive manner, or a non-rape-supportive manner. Participant's interpretation of the stimuli was assessed via a memory recognition task. We predicted that men higher on proclivity to rape – who presumably hold strong mental representations of rape-supportive themes – would be more likely to interpret stimuli in a rape-supportive manner relative to non-rape-supportive stimuli compared to men lower on rape proclivity.

Results. Using multiple regression to determine the relative contributions of both explicit and implicit measures for predicting rape proclivity, we found that only the explicit, self-report questionnaire and one of the ITs, ‘women are sex objects’ (as measured by the interpretative bias task), was significantly related to a person's rape proclivity score.

Conclusions. This result indicates that rape-prone men may not share the same beliefs as convicted rapists, which could be a key difference between men at risk of offending, and those who have been convicted of a sexual offence.