Network theory conceptualizes the organizationof semantic information as nodes within a net-likestructure. Links within the network representassociations among knowledge structures or concepts andhave been viewed as forming the basis of humansemantic memory (Quillian, 1962). Network models haverecently been employed in emotion theory (Bower, 1981;Lang, 1984) and in research in human sexuality (Geer, 1996; Rabalais & Geer, 1996; Smith,Eggleston, Gerrard, & Gibbons, 1996). As a result ofthat research, stable gender differences in theorganization of knowledge for sexual and emotionalinformation have begun to be identified (see Geer &Manguno-Mire, 1996, for a review). These differences inknowledge organization have been shown to map well ontoexisting research demonstrating gender differences in sexual attitudes, fantasies, and behavior(Geer & Manguno-Mire). The present study employs thePathfinder computer algorithm (Schvaneveldt, 1990) tocompare the cognitive associative networks of heterosexual men and women and gay men andlesbians. Ninety homosexuals (49 gay men and 41lesbians) and 95 heterosexuals (48 men and 47women)rated all pair-wise combinations of 16 wordsrelevant to sexuality and emotion. The sample was predominantlyCaucasian (90%). Four percent of participants wereAfrican-American, 3% were Hispanic American, 1% wereAsian American. Analysis of our dependent variable(number of links on relevant concepts) revealed genderand sexual orientation differences in the total numberof links in associative networks, the number of linkswithin relevant sexual and emotional word clusters, between relevant word clusters, and onindividual words. Results are interpreted in light ofrelevant theories of gender and sexualorientation.
Sex Roles – Springer Journals
Published: Oct 6, 2004
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