Alumni in Action

Iris Blandon-Gitlin


Naomi Hall

Assistant Professor, Winston-Salem State University

Dr. Naomi Hall wants to talk about sex—decision making around sexual behavior, that is, and how to influence people to make careful choices. “I hope to develop some preventative messages that will encourage people to be less cognitively lazy and more cautious when making decisions concerning their sexual behavior,” she explains. “I’m interested in how emotions come into play when making decisions about sex.”

Still a fresh face at Winston-Salem State University in North Carolina, Naomi is off to a brisk and busy start with her research program, aimed squarely at preventing the spread of HIV. This includes cross-country collaboration with colleagues at UCLA and Cal State Dominguez Hills to look at sexual risk behaviors in heterosexual males, and the decision-making process behind such risks. She has also received funding from the American Psychological Association’s division for the Psychology of Black Women to conduct focus groups with African American women concerning risk behaviors.

Naomi hopes to show through her work the importance of cultural factors concerning sexual behavior. “HIV prevention programs and researchers believe, more often than they should, that everyone is in an equal position to make rational decisions. There are always gender and cultural dynamics that need to be taken into account—in the context of HIV/AIDS, gender-related dynamics are relevant to whether men or women will take an active or passive role in sexual situations. The appropriateness of various behaviors are contained within an individual’s cultural framework.”

Her work in the area was already winning acclaim during her doctoral program at Claremont Graduate University, including a prestigious NIMH/APA training fellowship for research related to HIV. “I worked on the impact of the gender ratio imbalance on sexual behavior in African American communities. There are typically a greater number of marriageable African American women than men. The shortage of partners can lead to a high degree of competitiveness, and even situations where women will accept that their partner has multiple partners. It is very important that these cultural dynamics be taken into account when putting money into programs.”

Naomi has said that her CGU training helped in ways she had not realized at the time. “Many traditional programs [that I had considered] frowned on qualitative research, or didn’t even offer the opportunity for secondary data analysis. Now I’m meeting a lot of professors who are interested in these techniques, but never had the opportunity to use them.”

Her future work will continue to explore her findings from a nationwide survey, conducted during the final stages of her doctoral program at CGU. The data she collected from the survey spanned the socio-economic spectrum, including a significant amount of data on the African American middle clas. “It’s very exciting because when you look at the literature on African Americans and sexual risk behaviors, the focus is primarily on the individuals with low SES [socio-economic status]. Even research on females tends to center around individuals of lower SES. Just because people are in the middle class doesn’t mean that the risks just stop.”



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