The Role of Cognition in Sexual Assault

  • Zindel V. Segal
  • Lana E. Stermac
Part of the Applied Clinical Psychology book series (NSSB)


As even a casual perusal of the psychological literature on sexual assault reveals, the areas of investigation receiving the widest research attention seem to be those related to the constructs of deviant sexual arousal, heterosexual social skills, or the sexual and drug history of the offender. While it has been noted that cognitive variables may be especially relevant to work in these areas, cognition in sexual assault remains virtually unstudied (Lanyon, 1986; Stermac & Segal, in press). The reasons for this may be manifold, yet one explanation which suggests itself is that psychosocial investigations of sexual assault have yet to experience the “cognitive revolution” which has permeated the study of other problem behaviors (e.g., unipolar depression, Segal & Shaw, 1986; anxiety disorders, Ingram & Kendall, 1987). Alternatively, within the area of sexual assault the dominant theoretical construct of deviant sexual arousal has, up till recently, held sway over competing etiological accounts such that it has contributed to the development of a number of unimodal theories which leave little room for additional explanatory constructs (Abel, Barlow, Blanchard, & Guild, 1977). As the explanatory power of models based solely on the role of deviant sexual arousal becomes increasingly questioned (Baxter, Marshall, Barbaree, Davidson, & Malcolm, 1984), the need for multimodal models, which integrate other factors implicated in the commission of sexual assault, becomes apparent.


Sexual Assault Social Competence Cognitive Factor Sexual Aggression Social Information Processing 
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Copyright information

© Springer Science+Business Media New York 1990

Authors and Affiliations

  • Zindel V. Segal
    • 1
  • Lana E. Stermac
    • 2
  1. 1.Cognitive Behavior Therapies Section, Clarke Institute of PsychiatryUniversity of TorontoTorontoCanada
  2. 2.Clarke Institute of PsychiatryUniversity of TorontoTorontoCanada

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