UNE Student Recognised by Australian Psychology Society

Published 21 March 2013

On Tuesday, 26 March, UNE’s Vice Chancellor Jim Barber will present UNE student Michael Walton with the prestigious Australian Psychology Society Prize (APS) for the top student in psychology.

The APS award recognises excellence in psychology and is awarded annually to one student from each tertiary or higher education provider offering an APS programme in psychology. The APS is committed to spreading the message that psychologists make a difference to peoples’ lives through improving scientific knowledge and community wellbeing. Michael’s thesis, Understanding Hypersexuality, which helped define him as UNE’s top student, draws on scientific research to help the community understand the personality profile of persons engaging in unsafe sexual practices and “sex addicts.”  

Michael’s research explores the dimensions of hypersexuality, the extremely frequent or sudden increase in sexual activity, through the examination of sexual theories of dual control, impulsivity and compulsivity. He explores the mood and personality factors associated with sexual inhibition and exhibition, and sexual impulsivity and compulsivity, to predict what type of character is predisposed to hypersexuality.

From a sample of 507 participants Michael concluded that whilst hypersexuality was most common in those who were both easily sexually excited and sexually inhibited, and in those who suffered from anxiety or depression, generally mood and personality factors did not interact to predict hypersexuality. Notably age and gender were the most accurate indicators predicting hypersexuality. Contrary to what one might expect, child sexual abuse, bipolar disorder and openness to new experiences were unrelated to hypersexual behaviour. Michael concluded that although multiple theories exist to predict hypersexuality, a core personality that predisposes people toward hypersexual behaviour may exist.

Michaels’s research both answers and asks many questions relevant to today’s society. With this award, Michael is granted a one year associated membership to the APS, which will give him the ideal medium to explore this important topic further.