As we have seen in this chapter, sexologists use empirical methods to test hypotheses and explore
changes in sexuality. Now that you know something about these methods, you are in a good position to
judge the quality of research findings you read about online and in magazines. As we have talked about,
for example, one of the most common mistakes is for people to assume that because two variables are
correlated with each other, one caused the other. I hope that when you hear about correlation findings, a
little light will go off in your head that causes you to challenge any causal conclusions that are drawn.
Suppose, for example, that you are browsing through Health.com’s website and you come across this
tidbit “Best and Worst Foods for Sex: Here are a variety of foods that can put some sizzle in your sex life.
In one study, women who regularly nibbled on cocoa wanted and enjoyed sex more than women who
barely touched the stuff.” Did the light go off? This is a correlational finding – women who eat chocolate
enjoy sex more – and we cannot draw the conclusion that it is the chocolate that “leads to” (e.g., causes)
better sex. Can you think of alternative explanations of this finding (third variables)? Next, can you
design an experiment that would test the hypothesis that chocolate helps people’s sex lives?