SEMANTIC CONDITIONING OF FILIPINO WOMEN'S EVALUATIONS OF HETEROSEXUAL BEHAVIORS

ROMOLA GANTUANCO BRIONES, Fordham University

Abstract

The purpose of this study was to test the effectiveness of semantic conditioning in changing women's negative evaluations of phrases describing heterosexual behaviors. The phrases were: "Flirting with a man I don't know," "Kissing a man in public," "Having sexual intercourse," and "Looking at a man's nude body in a sexual situation." The conditioning procedure was adapted from Staats and Staats who demonstrated that subjects' semantic differential ratings of nonsense syllables became more positive after repeated pairing with positive words. A review of literature indicated that this procedure successfully modified subjects' negative evaluations of names of feared objects such as "snake" and "rat." This study aimed to extend the investigation of semantic conditioning to more complex verbal material with socially relevant content about which subjects professed strong convictions.^ The hypotheses were: (1) Subjects' evaluations of the targeted phrases would become more positive after semantic conditioning. (2) The positive changes in evaluations due to semantic conditioning would exceed similar changes in control subjects not given semantic conditioning. (3) The positive changes from semantic conditioning would be greater than changes due to mere repetition of the phrases.^ The sample consisted of 66 Filipino women between ages 15 and 21 enrolled in undergraduate psychology courses at a university in Cebu City, Philippines. They were selected for their extremely negative evaluations of the critical phrases at a pretest. Semantic differential ratings of these phrases on evaluative scales constituted the dependent variable which was measured at pretest, posttest after two weeks of conditioning, and at a follow-up testing two weeks after posttest. Each subject was seen individually by the experimenter for six conditioning sessions over a two-week period and repeated assigned phrases twice a day on her own.^ Subjects were randomly assigned to three matched groups: semantic conditioning, repetition, and no treatment control. For semantic conditioning, each targeted phrase was paired with 15 positive words and 3 neutral words. The control group did not repeat the sexual phrases but were given irrelevant phrases paired with neutral words. The third group simply repeated the critical phrases without any accompanying words.^ Analysis consisted of pretest-posttest and pretest-follow-up comparisons of the ratings using nonparametric methods, Wilcoxon's sign-rank test and the Mann-Whitney U test. Hypotheses 1 and 2 were supported by findings from three out of the four phrases. Semantic conditioning subjects significantly changed their evaluations of three phrases in the positive direction, and these changes were significantly larger than the control group changes. The third hypothesis was not confirmed. There was no significant difference between positive changes in the semantic conditioning group and those in the repetition group. However, additional analysis showed that for two phrases the positive changes from the semantic conditioning group remained significant at follow-up while positive changes in the repetition group had totally faded at follow-up.^ In actual size, the significant changes observed were rather small. After conditioning, the women's negative evaluations shifted less than one scale point to less negative ratings. It was concluded that semantic conditioning has potential as a therapeutic tool, probably as a supplement to more established clinical approaches especially for stigmatized clients with negative self-image. Further development of this technique may profit from research focusing on the effect of semantic conditioning on nonverbal behaviors described by the conditioned phrases, and the effect of using positive phrases instead of just words as unconditioned stimuli. ^

Subject Area

Clinical psychology

Recommended Citation

BRIONES, ROMOLA GANTUANCO, "SEMANTIC CONDITIONING OF FILIPINO WOMEN'S EVALUATIONS OF HETEROSEXUAL BEHAVIORS" (1981). ETD Collection for Fordham University. AAI8124274.
https://fordham.bepress.com/dissertations/AAI8124274

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