May 8, 2000
Director of Media Relations

AMHERST, Mass.—Catherine A. Sanderson, assistant professor of psychology at Amherst College, has received a grant of $36,608 from the National Institute of Mental Health for her research into "Preventing HIV by Changing Perceived Partner Norms."

Sanderson wants to know if men and women react differently to AIDS education messages. "I will examine whether men are more responsive to videos featuring men, women to those featuring women, or if perhaps either sex responds more readily to a message delivered by the opposite sex."

Sanderson notes that much research in the psychology of health education suggests that people respond best to models like themselves. In other words, men learn by hearing and seeing men talk about behavior, women by watching women.

"But in the case of condom use," Sanderson hypothesizes, "things may be reversed, such that men are more responsive to messages about condoms from women, because the concern, at least for heterosexuals, is that one’s partner does not like condoms. If I am correct, it would really change our approach to HIV prevention messages."

Sanderson, who has taught at Amherst since 1997, was educated at Stanford and Princeton Universities. A social psychologist, she has studied the effectiveness of various health education programs.

The National Institute of Mental Health is part of the National Institutes of Health, the Federal Government’s primary agency for biomedical and behavioral research. NIH is a component of the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services.