Date of Award

Fall 2015

Document Type


Degree Name

Master of Science (MS)



Committee Director

Louis H. Janda

Committee Member

Valerian Derlega

Committee Member

Kristin Heron


Sex guilt is a generalized expectancy for self-mediated punishment for violating or anticipating violating standards of proper sexual conduct. Our current knowledge about sex guilt is primarily achieved through using explicit measures, particularly the widely used Mosher Sex Guilt Inventory. Research has shown that explicit sex guilt can predict many sexual behaviors such as sexual activity, number of sexual partners, and condom use. Responses on explicit measures, however, are influenced by dissimulation and social desirability, especially when assessing socially sensitive domains such as sexual attitudes. The present study hypothesized that adding implicit sex guilt as a second predictor to the Mosher Sex Guilt Inventory would significantly improve the prediction of sexual behaviors. An Implicit Association Test (IAT) was created for the purposes of this study. The IAT consisted of two dimensions: pictorial and lexical. For the pictorial section, the study contrasted the target category of sex with the more neutral category of exercise. The lexical dimensions were guilt-innocent. Two hundred and twenty five female and 48 male undergraduate students participated in the study. IAT and Mosher Sex Guilt scales were correlated (r = .25) which provided some support for the convergent validity of IAT sex guilt. Regression and correlation analyses indicated that IAT sex guilt was associated with whether or not participants were sexually active, the extent to which participants were satisfied with their first sexual intercourse, frequency of engaging in sexual intercourse, and contraceptive use. However, results on multiple regression and correlation indicated that when IAT was added to the model as a second predictor, it only improved the prediction of whether or not participants were sexually active. Overall, Mosher sex guilt demonstrated better convergent validity compared to IAT sex guilt and the results did not support the idea of IAT sex guilt increasing the amount of variance accounted for in sexual behaviors compared to the Mosher scale alone. The implementation of explicit measures for assessing outcome variables could be a reason for the stronger association between Mosher sex guilt, compared to IAT sex guilt, and outcome variables.


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