Date of Award

Fall 2022

Document Type

Open Access Dissertation



First Advisor

Matt Brashears


Does lacking power cause people to think potential partners are less interested in engaging with them sexually? Do men and women perceive the interests of potential sex partners differently? Does the amount of sexual intent perceived by people who are in a romantic relationship differ from that of singles? Power has been shown to impact perceptions in other contexts, and the way people rate the attractiveness of potential mates is shown to differ depending upon their own relationship status. Similarly, gender differences are a central theme in discussions of sex related perceptions, preferences, and behaviors. In this study, I utilize an experimental design to determine whether power causes differences in perceived sexual intent. I also test hypotheses about how relationship status and gender relate to differences in perceived sexual intent.

Using Bayesian model averaging techniques, I analyze data obtained from 538 research subjects recruited using the Prolific online worker platform. Subjects were randomly assigned to treatment conditions, and a standard semantic priming procedure was used to experimentally manipulate low/high power. Results provide strong support for the hypothesis that high power individuals perceive more sexual intent from potential partners. Strong support against the existence of any difference in perceived sexual intent being attributable to the gender of subjects is also found. However, I find that the gender of potential partners is related to the amount of sexual intent perceived by subjects. The evidence also supports the absence of any relationship status effect.


© 2022, Joseph Eric Padgett

Included in

Sociology Commons