Selected Publications and Media Highlights

Selected Publications and Media Highlights

Journal Papers

Sexting: A new, digital vehicle for intimate partner aggression?

Michelle Drouin, Jody Ross, and Elizabeth Tobin
Computers in Human Behavior, Volume 50, September 2015, Pages 197-204

In this study, we examined the relationships between sexting coercion, physical sex coercion, intimate partner violence, and mental health and trauma symptoms within a sample of 480 young adult undergraduates (160 men and 320 women). Approximately one fifth of the sample indicated that they had engaged in sexting when they did not want to. Those who had been coerced into sexting had usually been coerced by subtler tactics (e.g., repeated asking and being made to feel obligated) than more severe forms of coercion (e.g., physical threats). Nevertheless, the trauma related to these acts of coercion both at the time they occurred and now (looking back) were greater for sexting coercion than for physical sex coercion. Moreover, women noted significantly more trauma now (looking back) than at the time the events occurred for sexting coercion. Additionally, those who experienced more instances of sexting coercion also endorsed more symptoms of anxiety, depression, and generalized trauma. Finally, sexting coercion was related to both physical sex coercion and intimate partner violence, which suggests that sexting coercion may be a form of intimate partner violence, providing perpetrators with a new, digital route for physical and sexual covictimization.   External Link

Facebook fired: Legal perspectives and young adults’ opinions on the use of social media in hiring and firing decisions

Michelle Drouin, Kimberly W. O’Connor, Gordon B. Schmidt, and Daniel A. Miller
Computers in Human Behavior, Volume 46, May 2015, Pages 123-128
In this exploratory study, we examine young adult undergraduates’ (n = 448) opinions regarding the use of social media for employment decisions, a practice that has been highlighted in the popular press and recent legal cases. Most of the young adults in our sample were not in support of this practice (only one third were), and most expressed a liberal view of what should be permissible for posting on social media without the threat of job termination (e.g., less than half believed that posting illegal sexual behavior online should result in termination). Additionally, those who were most opposed to using social media in employment decisions were older, had less self-control, were more endorsing of the hookup culture, and were more open to experience. We discuss these findings with regard to current social media/work life issues, suggesting that: (1) these opinions may affect companies and legal entities who are developing social media policies, but also (2) that young adults need to be aware that regardless of their opinions on the practice, their social media use could have long-term effects on their careers.
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“Love the Way You Lie”: Sexting deception in romantic relationships

Michelle Drouin, Elizabeth Tobin, & Kara Wygant
Available online 3 April 2014

In this study, we examined the prevalence of lying during sexting in a sample of 155 young adult college students. More than one third (37%) of those who had ever had a committed relationship and approximately half (48%) of active sexters (i.e., those who had ever sent a sexual text message) had lied to their committed partners during sexting about what they were wearing, doing, or both. Most people (67%) lied to serve their partner in some way (e.g., make it better for their partner) but some (33%) lied to serve themselves (e.g., they were bored). Additionally, lying during sexting was much more common among women than men: 45% of women and 24% of men had lied during sexting with committed partners. When attachment characteristics were considered, attachment avoidance predicted lying during sexting among active sexters, even after controlling for gender. Therefore, lying during sexting, just like pretending orgasm in a face-to-face context, is more likely to occur among those with insecure attachments to relationship partners. We discuss the similarities and differences between sexual deception in face-to-face and CMC contexts and propose future directions for this research.   External Link

Using modern technology to keep in touch with back burners: An investment model analysis

Jayson L. Dibble & Michelle Drouin
Computers in Human Behavior, Volume 34, May 2014, Pages 96–100

Relationship research and theory recognizes that individuals continue to monitor the availability of their romantic/sexual prospects whether or not they are already in a committed relationship. We use the term back burner to describe a desired potential or continuing romantic/sexual partner with whom one communicates, but to whom one is not exclusively committed. Although communication with back burners is not new, modern technology affords novel channels (e.g., social networking applications and text messaging) that individuals are using to connect with back burners. A survey study (N = 374) explored whether people used technology to communicate with back burners, as well as relationships between back burner contacts and investment model variables ( Rusbult, 1980). Results indicated that back burner activity through electronic channels was common, men reported more back burners than women, and that number of back burners associated positively with quality of alternatives. For those in committed relationships, no relationships were observed between back burner activity and commitment to or investment in the relationship. Implications and limitations are discussed.   External Link

Unwanted but consensual sexting among young adults: Relations with attachment and sexual motivations

Michelle Drouin & Elizabeth Tobin
Computers in Human Behavior, Volume 31, February 2014, Pages 412–418

A wide body of research has examined unwanted but consensual sex in a face-to-face context, focusing on intercourse, petting, kissing, and other sexual activity that people consent to even though they do not want to. Recent research has shown many people engage in sexual interactions via computer-mediated mediums; yet, to date, there are no studies that have investigated whether unwanted but consensual sexual activity exists in these contexts. In this study, we examined the extent to which 93 women and 62 men had consented to unwanted sexting within committed relationships and the attachment characteristics and motivations that are associated with this behavior. Approximately one half of the sample (52.3%) had engaged in unwanted but consensual sexting with a committed partner, and most did so for flirtation, foreplay, to fulfill a partner’s needs, or for intimacy. Among men, neither of the attachment dimensions was related to unwanted but consensual sexting. However, among women, anxious attachment was significantly related to frequency of consenting to unwanted sexting, and consenting to avoid an argument was a mediator in the relationship between anxious attachment and consenting to unwanted sexting. These results are compared to previous work on unwanted but consensual sex, and future directions are discussed.   External Link

Let’s talk about sexting, baby: Computer-mediated sexual behaviors among young adults.

Michelle Drouin, Kimberly N. Vogel, Alisen Surbey, and Julie R. Stills
Computers in Human Behavior, Volume 29, Issue 5, September 2013, Pages A25–A30

Although much media attention has been directed towards sexting (transmission of sexual material via phone or internet), little empirical work exists on the topic. Moreover, the few studies that do exist have been inconsistent in their definition of sexting and measures of sexting behavior, which makes comparisons between these studies difficult. In this study, we provide a granular, descriptive analysis of sexting behavior within a cohort of young adults, focusing on the content of sex messages, the medium used to transmit these messages, and the relationship context in which these transmissions occur. We found that sexting was fairly common across all types of romantic relationships (committed, casual sex, and cheating), text messaging was the primary medium used to send sex pictures and videos, and the prevalence, motivations, and risks associated with sexting varied by relationship context. Considering the complexity and diversity of sexting practices within this cohort, we suggest that those studying sexting and implementing initiatives with young adults use more detailed (rather than general) definitions and questions of sexting behavior, and that they delineate between these different types of content, transmission media, and relationship contexts.   External Link

Texting, sexting, and attachment in college students’ romantic relationships

Michelle Drouin and Carly Landgraff
Computers in Human Behavior, Volume 28, Issue 2, March 2012, Pages 444–449

In this study, we explored how texting and sexting practices are related to attachment in college students’ (n = 744) committed romantic relationships. Participants completed a survey containing questions about their texting and sexting practices and attachment styles with relationship partners. Results showed that texting and sexting are relatively common in young adult romantic relationships, and texting and sexting are both significantly related to attachment style. However, whereas text messaging was more common among those with secure attachments (i.e., those with less attachment avoidance), sexting (both texts and pictures) was more common among those with insecure attachments, particularly those with higher attachment avoidance. Whereas anxious attachment predicted variance in sending sex text messages only, attachment avoidance contributed unique variance in sending both sex texts and pictures. This relationship was moderated by gender—avoidant men were more likely than avoidant women to send sex text and picture messages to relationship partners.   External Link

Ignore your partners’ current Facebook friends; beware the ones they add!

Michelle Drouin, Daniel A. Miller, and Jayson L. Dibble
Computers in Human Behavior (2014),
In this study, we examined two behaviors that could evoke Facebook jealousy and cause relationship problems among romantic partners: (1) Facebook solicitation behaviors (i.e., making or accepting friend requests with romantic interests) while in the current relationship, and (2) having romantic interests on existing Facebook friends lists. In our sample of 148 undergraduates, those who had lower commitment to their partners were more likely to make and accept Facebook friend requests with romantic interests during their relationship. However, commitment was unrelated to the number of romantic alternatives contained on one’s Facebook friends list or the frequency of Facebook solicitation while single. Additionally, attachment anxiety predicted Facebook solicitation behaviors, but this relationship was mediated by Facebook jealousy. Our findings confirm that Facebook is used to solicit connections with romantic interests both while single and during committed relationships; however, it is only those connections that are made during the relationship that are markers of lower commitment. Moreover, our study adds to a growing body of research that connects face-to-face relationship theories to the virtual environment.   External Link

Phantom vibrations in young adults: Prevalence and underlying psychological characteristics

Michelle Drouin, Daren H. Kaiser, and Daniel A. Miller
Computers in Human Behavior, Volume 28, Issue 4, July 2012, Pages 1490–1496
Phantom vibration syndrome,’ or perceived vibrations from a device that is not really vibrating, is a recent psychological phenomenon that has attracted the attention of the media and medical community. Most (89%) of the 290 undergraduates in our sample had experienced phantom vibrations, and they experienced them about once every two weeks, on average. However, few found them bothersome. Those higher in conscientiousness experienced phantom vibrations less frequently, and those who had strong reactions to text messages (higher in the emotional reaction subscale of text message dependence) were more bothered by phantom vibrations. These findings suggest that targeting individuals’ emotional reactions to text messages might be helpful in combating the negative consequences of both text message dependency and phantom vibrations. However, because few young adults were bothered by these phantom vibrations or made attempts to stop them, interventions aimed at this population may be unnecessary.   External Link

“I’m 13. I’m online. U believe me?”: Implications for Law Enforcement

Drouin, M., Egan, V., Yergens, N., & Hernandez, E. (accepted)
Psychology, Public Policy, and Law

Predicting recidivism among internet child sex sting offenders using psychological language analysis

Drouin, M., Boyd, R. L., & Greidanus Romaneli, M
Cyberpsychology, Behavior, and Social Networking
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Linguistic analysis of chat transcripts from child predator undercover sex stings

Drouin, M., Boyd, R. L., Hancock, J. T., & James, A.
Journal of Forensic Psychiatry and Psychology
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Why do people lie online? “Because everyone lies on the internet.”

Drouin, M., Miller, D. A., Wehle, S. M. J., & Hernandez, E.
Computers in Human Behavior, 64, 134–142
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Sexting coercion as a component of intimate partner polyvictimization

Ross, J., Drouin, M., & Coupe, M.
Journal of Interpersonal Violence, 1–23. doi:10.1177/0886260516660300
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Helping workers understand and follow social media policies

O’Connor, K. W., Schmidt, G. B., & Drouin, M.
Business Horizons, 59, 205–211
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Media Highlights

Young adults to employers: Please ignore our social media posts

Youngstown News, February 22, 2015

“…A recent study in Computers in Human Behavior by Michelle Drouin and her colleagues at Indiana University-Purdue University suggests many young adults don’t support the use of social media when screening job applicants. They found that students who reported low self-control and high levels of “openness” didn’t like the idea of employers reviewing social media posts. These same students don’t think employers should make decisions based on a couple offensive posts. Additionally, most young adults in the study expressed liberal views about what is acceptable to post online…”   External Link

The sexting scandal no one sees

Caitlin Dewey
The Washington Post, April 28, 2015

“…[Parents] might be missing the real, and really dangerous, sexting scandal — the one that few people, besides kids themselves, see. According to new research from Indiana University, as many as one in five sexters are actually coerced into sending sexual texts by threats or manipulation from their partner. The practice is so widespread among young people — and so deeply traumatic — that the developmental psychologist Michelle Drouin thinks it constitutes a new form of intimate partner violence. ‘I think it is a surprising finding,’ Drouin said. ‘Coercion into sexting caused more trauma, for both men and women … than coercion into actual physical sex.'”   External Link

Sexting coercion is on the rise - and can be as traumatic as partner violence

Lucy Goodchild van Hilten
Elsevier, June 5, 2015

“…’Sexual education programs need to be expanded to include digital sex,’ said Dr. Michelle Drouin, Associate Professor of Psychology and lead author of the study. ‘It’s about the responsible use of technology as much as it is about sexual relationships; people need to realize that even a private message could end up online. We need to be having conversations about the digital footprint as part of more general education about computer literacy and safety.’ … ‘If you have a physical sex experience, there’s usually no evidence so it’s less likely to publicly haunt you,’ said Dr. Drouin. ‘Online sexual experiences are part of our culture now. We’re all leaving a digital footprint, and this means everyone can weigh in on our mistakes. This makes recordable incidents – like sexting coercion – even more traumatic.’…”   External Link

The Labor of Love: Let's Talk About Sext (ing)

Lori Leibovich, Interviewer
The Labor of Love – a podcast, August 19, 2015

“My research has really looked at the negatives of sending pictures [as opposed to word-only sexts], particularly when people are only doing it to satisfy a partner or because their partners have repeatedly asked, and in those cases – when people are engaging in what we’ve termed ‘unwanted but consensual sexting’ – it’s actually also related to intimate partner violence. So, you have a lot of negative associations with sexting. I’m not convinced that sexting is a wonderful way to go in terms of increasing intimacy in a marriage.” – Michelle Drouin (Excerpt from podcast)   External Link

Science Now: Sexting and Sexual Satisfaction

Sasha Harris-Lovett
LA Times, August 10, 2015

“…In general, Drouin said, sexting tends to be associated with less healthful relationship characteristics, like attachment anxiety. For example, adults may send sexts because they’re afraid their partner will leave if they don’t. Or, they may sext instead of speaking face-to-face or physically touching because it allows them to maintain emotional distance… ‘The people who are having actual sex are probably a lot more satisfied than the people who are sending these pictures,’ she said.”   External Link

'Reign of terror: An online troll destroys a family's offline life

Justin Jouvenal
Washington Post, July 20, 2015

Michelle Drouin, an Indiana University psychology professor who studies technology, said the anonymity and connectivity of the Internet have created a ‘sadist’s playground.’ ‘People that want to distress other people can now do it in the comfort of their own home,’ Drouin said. ‘It has less repercussions than harassment offline, and the Internet allows for this emotional distance between the harasser and the victim.’ “   External Link

Drouin Talks Phantom Vibrations

Lisa Autz and Zach Schepis, Interviewers
Third Eye Weekly – a BreakThru Radio podcast, May 5, 2015

“Almost 9 out of 10 of our undergrads had experienced [phantom vibrations], and this population especially is really dependent on their phones, so it was totally unsurprising. It also wasn’t very surprising that they’re not bothered by them. I mean, we have technological foibles all the time that we deal with … We’re accustomed to dealing with the problems related to technology. We’re not too bothered by them.” – Michelle Drouin (Excerpt from podcast)   External Link

Social Networking and the 'Back Burner' Phenomenon

Joseph Nowinski, Ph.D.
Huffington Post, July 16, 2014

“…Dibble and Drouin set out to investigate how the back burner phenomenon might be playing out today. To do so they decided to recruit young men and women as volunteers for a study of if and how they might use modern technologies such as social media, texting, and so on to maintain back burner relationships…”   External Link

Are Adults Having Good Sexts?

Cristen Conger
ABC News, May 17, 2011

“In 2009, the Pew Center for Internet and American Life published survey findings that 4 percent of adolescents 12 to 17 years old had sent “sexually suggestive nude or nearly nude images or videos” of themselves to someone else via text message.

That sparked a “sexting” panic over the unsettling implications of young people engaging in this type of illicit interaction, as well as legal issues involving the cell phone-transmitted photos that could be deemed child pornography. Consequently, much of the media attention to sexting has focused solely on adolescent behavior, yet the act of sexting isn’t limited to teens. Plenty of adults send racy text messages and cell phone pictures, too.

Psychology professor Michelle Drouin has studied sexting behavior among the college-aged population and found that around half of people in committed relationships had sent a sext photo to their partners, and two-thirds had engaged in sext messaging.”

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More Common Than You Think

Michelle Drouin
New York Times, June 9, 2011

In this New York Times op-ed, Drouin discusses the frequency and prevalency of adult sexting.   External Link

How Prevalent Is Sexting?

Maureen Mespell
Indiana’s News Center, June 9, 2011

“In light of the Congressman Anthony Weiner situation, sexting has been pushed to the forefront.

Assistant Professor of Psychology at IPFW Dr. Michelle Drouin was on our 5pm newscast with an in-depth look at how prevalent sexting is among adults and what role social media plays in the ease of committing such acts.”

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'Sexting' is often scandalous to public figures, a disaster to relationships

Katya Cengel and Matt Frassica
Louisville Courier-Journal, June 10, 2011

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Young Adults’ Online Misconduct

U.S. Marine Corps
April 13, 2017

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Sexting Coercion and IPV

Washington Post, on April 24, 2015

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Adults Behaving Badly Online

Interviewed on “Adults Behaving Badly Online” by on March 9, 2017

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