Exploring Comfort Levels and the Role of Compensation in Sexual Psychophysiology Study Participation
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A number of devices have been developed to assess physiological sexual response. Some come into direct contact with the genitals (e.g., vaginal/clitoral/penile plethysmography [VPP/CPP/PPG], labial thermistors [LT]), whereas others capture images of the genitals remotely (e.g., thermal imaging [TI], laser Doppler imaging [LDI]). Researchers have speculated about the relative invasiveness of these measurement tools, with limited empirical work examining participants’ perceptions of different devices and how these may impact volunteer bias. We investigated individuals’ levels of comfort with participating in hypothetical sexual psychophysiology studies and their reasons for discomfort. We also examined the relationship between comfort level and compensation for participation. Men (n = 291) and women (n = 716) completed an online survey where they were presented with vignettes describing studies using VPP, CPP, PPG, LT, TI, and LDI. Participants reported their comfort level with the idea of participating in each study, the amount of compensation that would be reasonable, and factors influencing their decision not to participate if they were unwilling. Participants were similarly comfortable with some studies involving genital contact (VPP) or remote imaging (TI), and somewhat less comfortable with others (LDI, LT, PPG; small or small-medium effect sizes). Along with our qualitative analysis, these findings reveal that direct genital contact is one aspect of study intrusiveness, but that it is not necessarily the most important study feature influencing comfort with participation. Our results suggest that providing additional information regarding protocols at screening and offering $50 compensation might attract wider samples of participants.
KeywordsVolunteer bias Sexual psychophysiology Gender
This research was supported in part by grants from the Canadian Institute for Health Research New Investigator Awards awarded to MLC and to CFP and by scholarships awarded to JSH from the Social Sciences and Humanities Research Council of Canada (Vanier Canada Graduate Scholarship and Joseph-Armand Bombardier Canada Graduate Scholarships Master’s Scholarship) and the Ontario Graduate Scholarship. This paper was presented at the annual meetings of the Canadian Sex Research Forum in Kelowna, BC, Canada, 2015 and the Society for Sex Therapy and Research in Montreal, QC, Canada, 2017.
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