It’s becoming increasingly common nowadays to pick up a newspaper and read a headline about a ‘monstrous paedophile’ who has committed the latest chilling sexual offense against a child. It’s also difficult to avoid being confronted by justice campaigns or politicians using these examples of evidence to promote ever more punitive responses to the issue of sexual offending. Inherent in this struggle is the conflating of two distinct (though related) groups: child molesters (who commit sexual offences against children) and paedophiles (who have a sexual attraction towards children but who may or may not act on these interests). In confusing these two groups, media outlets (1) do a disservice to those non-offending paedophiles who actively live each day with the intention to not act on their sexual interests, and (2) perhaps unknowingly undermine academic and practical efforts to prevent the sexual abuse of children.
It seems like such a simple idea, how you evaluate something, in part, determines your behavior towards that ‘something’. For example, people who think coffee is delicious, probably tend to drink more coffee than people who think coffee is disgusting. Social psychology theory and research support this idea; evaluations, in part, predict behavior. Empirical evidence suggests this is true whether the evaluations are immediate (implicit evaluations) or deliberative (explicit evaluations), and that both the automatic and deliberative evaluations are important in understanding behavior. From this research, Dr. Kevin Nunes, myself, and our colleagues hypothesized that how someone evaluates sexual aggression would predict, in part whether or not they would engage in sexually aggressive behavior.