‘How many partners is too many?’ Shaping perceptions of personal vulnerability

As part of a survey on sexual issues, 136 college undergraduates (aged 17-23 yrs) reported the total number of sexual partners they had had on a response scale that systematically framed their sexual behavior as being either above average or below average. Following the response scale manipulation, Ss completed questions about perceptions of their current sexual behavior and personal risk for HIV infection. Participants in the 2 conditions reported the same absolute number of sexual partners. However, those who received a response scale that implied they had had more partners than the average student reported greater concern about their sexual behavior than did those who received a scale that implied they had had fewer partners than average. The implications of this approach for influencing perceptions of personal risk are discussed. (PsycINFO Database Record (c) 2007 APA, all rights reserved)