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International Sexuality Description Project


Project description

The International Sexuality Description Project (ISDP) is a cross-cultural research collaboration involving 100s of psychologists from around the world who seek to understand how culture, personality, and gender combine to influence sexual attitudes and behaviours. Over several waves of data collection, this international research team has amassed critical information about human sexuality from over 50,000 people across more than 50 nations. If you are interested in finding out more about the ISDP, please contact Dr David P. Schmitt at Brunel University London.

The International Sexuality Description Project (ISDP) is a research collaboration involving 100s of psychologists from around the world who share the common goal of understanding how culture, personality, and gender combine to influence human sexuality.

In 2000, Dr David P. Schmitt assembled a large international network of over 100 scholars and coordinated the administration of numerous sexuality and personality surveys—as translated into 30 languages—to college student and community samples from over 50 nations. The large number of cultures in the ISDP enabled us to investigate universal and culture-specific patterns of attributes such as Big Five personality traits (Schmitt et al., 2008), self-esteem levels (Schmitt & Allik, 2005), and romantic attachment styles (Schmitt et al., 2003).

 We also have looked within cultures to determine whether certain features of personality, gender, and socioecology were evolutionarily-associated with sexual outcomes such as mate poaching behaviour (Schmitt et al., 2004), desires for sexual variety (Schmitt et al., 2003), infidelity (Schmitt, 2004), and unrestricted sociosexuality (Schmitt, 2005).

More recently, we conducted a follow-up to the ISDP that included 58 nations (the ISDP-2). In the ISDP-2, we examined the influence of sex-role ideology, social dominance orientation, issues of dyadic power, and anti-social personality traits (e.g., Narcissism, see Schmitt et al., 2017; and psychopathy, see Neumann, Schmitt, Carter, Embley, & Hare, 2012), on outcomes such as intimate partner violence, sexual aggression, and high-risk behaviour associated with HIV/AIDS.

In the ISDP, we are particularly interested in how varying levels of women’s power and status across cultures (and over time) have mediating effects on links among personality, sexuality, and life history theory-related outcomes (see, Schmitt, 2015).

As part of our future research agenda, additional ISDP studies will be conducted approximately every 10 years (the ISDP-3 will take place in 2020). Repeated decennial assessment of personality, sexuality, and health-related outcomes across dozens of nations will help culture and evolution scientists to determine, among other things, whether nation-level changes in gender equality, sex ratios, and ecological stressors precede important shifts in sexual and health-related behaviours.

New and improving statistical tools such as multilevel modelling and multi-group confirmatory factor analysis have enabled large projects such as the ISDP to make significant advances in cross-cultural and evolutionary psychology. At the Centre for Culture and Evolution, projects like the ISDP are helping to make Brunel University London a recognized leader in culture and evolution science.