Archives of Sexual Behavior

, Volume 23, Issue 3, pp 321-344

First online:

The conditioning of human sexual arousal

  • William O'DonohueAffiliated withNorthern Illinois University
  • , Joseph J. PlaudAffiliated withUniversity of North Dakota

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Although most theories of human sexual behavior claim that much normal sexual behavior is learned, and theories of the etiology and modification of paraphilic and dysfunctional sexual behavior also claim that abnormal sexual behavior is learned and can be counterconditioned, there is no systematic review examining the relationship between conditioning and human sexual behavior. We review research addressing whether habituation, sensitization, classical conditioning, and operant conditioning processes are involved in human sexual behavior. We conclude that, due to the methodological problems of extant studies, the basis for asserting the existence of relationships between habituation, sensitization, classical conditioning, operant conditioning, and sexual behavior is tenuous.

Key words

conditioning habituation sensitization classical conditioning operant conditioning sexual arousal