Kinsey Group Research

One famous survey study in the mid-1930's was conducted by Alfred Kinsey and his colleagues. Kinsey studied sexual behavior. Until that time, most of

Alfred Kinsey. (Library of Congress)

what was known about sexual behavior was based on what biologists knew about animal sex, what anthropologists knew about sex among indigenous peoples in non-Western, nonindustrialized societies, or what Freud learned about sexuality from his emotionally disturbed patients. Kinsey and his colleagues were the first psychological researchers to interview volunteers from mainstream American society about their sexual behaviors. The research was hindered by political investigations and threats of legal action. In spite of the harassment encountered by the scientists on the project, the Kinsey group published Sexual Behavior in the Human Male in 1948 and Sexual Behavior in the Human Female in 1953.

The findings of the Kinsey group benefited the public immensely. As a result, it is now known that the majority of people (both men and women) interviewed by the Kinsey group masturbated at various times, but that more men than women said they masturbated. Data collected by the Kinsey group on oral-genital sexual practices have allowed later researchers to discover that, since the 1930's, attitudes toward oral-genital sex have become more positive. Kinsey's research also shocked the United States with the discovery that the majority of brides at that time were not virgins.

When scientific sampling techniques are used, the survey results can be interpreted as an accurate representation of the entire population. Al though Kinsey and his associates helped to pave the way for future researchers to investigate sexual behaviors and attitudes, there were some problems with the research because of its lack of generalizability. The Kinsey group's research is still the largest study of sexual behavior ever completed. They interviewed more than ten thousand people; however, they did not attempt to select a random or representative sample of the population of the United States, which meant that the responses of middle-class, well-educated Caucasians were overrepresented. There is also a problem with the accuracy of the respondents' information, because of memory errors, exaggerations, or embarrassment about telling an interviewer personal, sensitive information. Despite these limitations, the interviewing conducted by Kinsey and associates made great strides for the study of sexuality and great strides for psychology in general.

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