Cognitive Mediators of Reactions to Rape

Robert S. Wyer*, Galen V. Bodenhausen, Theresa F. Gorman

*Corresponding author for this work

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

94 Scopus citations


Subjects were exposed to slides that primed different concepts associated with aggression, close personal interactions between men and women, and women as sex objects. Then, as part of an ostensibly unrelated study, they read the testimonies of several rape victims and made judgments concerning both the victim and the alleged rapist. Exposure to negative consequences of aggression apparently threatened subjects' beliefs in a just world, leading subjects to interpret rape incidents in ways that reaffirm this belief (i.e., it strengthened subjects' beliefs that the defendant should be punished, but it also caused them to attribute more responsibility for the incident to the victim). Portrayals of close personal relationships between men and women increased male subjects' beliefs that rape victims were responsible for the incident, but had the opposite effect on female subjects' beliefs. Portrayals of women as sex objects decreased male subjects' beliefs in the victim's credibility and increased their beliefs that she was responsible for the incident; however, it had the opposite effects on female subjects' judgments. Despite their effects on judgments of the rape victim, priming manipulations did not affect beliefs that the defendant should be convicted. Implications of these results for the effects of the public media on attitudes and beliefs about rape are discussed.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)324-338
Number of pages15
JournalJournal of personality and social psychology
Issue number2
StatePublished - Feb 1985

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Social Psychology
  • Sociology and Political Science


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