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Practice what you preach.

Preliminary data suggest that an enlightened focus on hypocrisy fosters condon use and AIDS awareness among sexually active young adults. AIDS education campaigns in schools might profit by holding discussions in which each student first tries to persuade others of the need for sexual safety precautions and then acknowledges his or her own past failures in that regard, asserts a team led by psychologist Elliot Aronson of the University of California, Santa Cruz.

Well-intended information about AIDS typically elicits fear from young adults, who then deny the threat rather than change their sexual behavior, Aronson's group argues in the December AMERICAN JOURNAL OF PUBLIC HEALTH. This denial also stems from the widespread belief that condoms wreck the romance and spontaneity of sex, they say.

The scientists recruited 40 female and 40 male sexually active college students. Half composed speeches advocating condom use, based on a fact sheet about AIDS, and delivered their talks in front of a television camera. An experimenter told them an AIDS-prevention program would use the tape. Researchers began the exercise by asking half of these 40 volunteers to describe recent situations in which they failed to use condoms, thereby creating a sense of hypocrisy.

The remaining students composed pro-condom speeches from the fact sheet but only rehearsed them silently. Again, half of this group first told of their recent failures to use condoms.

After the exercise, the 40 students who had revealed their hypocrisy -- particularly those who gave a taped speech -- reported more past failures to use condoms than the other 40 and a greater willingness to use them in the future. Among 39 participants contacted three months later, the 12 who taped a speech in the hypocrisy condition reported significantly more condom use since the experiment.
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Publication:Science News
Date:Jan 18, 1992
Words:291
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