Archives of Sexual Behavior

, Volume 37, Issue 2, pp 219–228 | Cite as

Sex Differences in Visual Attention to Erotic and Non-Erotic Stimuli

Original Paper

Abstract

It has been suggested that sex differences in the processing of erotic material (e.g., memory, genital arousal, brain activation patterns) may also be reflected by differential attention to visual cues in erotic material. To test this hypothesis, we presented 20 heterosexual men and 20 heterosexual women with erotic and non-erotic images of heterosexual couples and tracked their eye movements during scene presentation. Results supported previous findings that erotic and non-erotic information was visually processed in a different manner by both men and women. Men looked at opposite sex figures significantly longer than did women, and women looked at same sex figures significantly longer than did men. Within-sex analyses suggested that men had a strong visual attention preference for opposite sex figures as compared to same sex figures, whereas women appeared to disperse their attention evenly between opposite and same sex figures. These differences, however, were not limited to erotic images but evidenced in non-erotic images as well. No significant sex differences were found for attention to the contextual region of the scenes. Results were interpreted as potentially supportive of recent studies showing a greater non-specificity of sexual arousal in women. This interpretation assumes there is an erotic valence to images of the sex to which one orients, even when the image is not explicitly erotic. It also assumes a relationship between visual attention and erotic valence.

Keywords

Sex differences Visual attention Erotic stimuli 

References

  1. Anokhin, A. P., Golosheykin, S., Sirevaag, E., Kristijansson, S., Rohrbaugh, J. W., & Heath, A. C. (2006). Rapid discrimination of visual scene content in the human brain. Brain Research, 1093, 167–177.PubMedCrossRefGoogle Scholar
  2. Calvo, M. G., & Lang, P. J. (2004). Gaze patterns when looking at emotional pictures: Motivationally biased attention. Motivation and Emotion, 28, 221–243.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  3. Chivers, M. L. (2005). A brief review and discussion of sex differences in the specificity of sexual arousal. Sexual and Relationship Therapy, 20, 377–390.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  4. Chivers, M. L. (2006). Do women have a “sexual orientation?” Insights from female sexual psychophysiology. Paper presented at the meeting of the International Academy of Sex Research, Amsterdam.Google Scholar
  5. Chivers, M. L., Rieger, G., Latty, E., & Bailey, J. M. (2004). A sex difference in the specificity of sexual arousal. Psychological Science, 15, 736–744.PubMedCrossRefGoogle Scholar
  6. Feingold, A., & Mazzella, R. (1998). Gender differences in body image are increasing. Psychological Science, 9, 190–195.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  7. Geer, J. H., & Bellard, H. S. (1996). Sexual content induced delays in unprimed lexical decisions: Gender and context effects. Archives of Sexual Behavior, 25, 379–395.PubMedCrossRefGoogle Scholar
  8. Geer, J. H., Judice, S., & Jackson, S. (1994). Reading times for erotic material: The pause to reflect. Journal of General Psychology, 121, 345–352.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  9. Geer, J. H., & Manguno-Mire, G. M. (1996). Gender differences in cognitive processes in sexuality. Annual Review of Sex Research, 7, 90–124.Google Scholar
  10. Geer, J. H., & McGlone, M. S. (1990). Sex differences in memory for erotica. Cognition and Emotion, 4, 71–78.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  11. Geer, J. H., & Melton, J. S. (1997). Sexual content-induced delays with double-entendre words. Archives of Sexual Behavior, 26, 295–316.PubMedCrossRefGoogle Scholar
  12. Geer, J. H., & Robertson, G. G. (2005). Implicit attitudes in sexuality: Gender differences. Archives of Sexual Behavior, 34, 671–677.PubMedCrossRefGoogle Scholar
  13. Hamann, S., Herman, R., Nolan, C. L., & Wallen, K. (2004). Men and women differ in amygdala response to visual sexual stimuli. Nature Neuroscience, 7, 411–416.PubMedCrossRefGoogle Scholar
  14. Henderson, J. M., & Hollingworth, A. (1999). High-level scene perception. Annual Review of Psychology, 50, 243–271.PubMedCrossRefGoogle Scholar
  15. Henderson, J. M., Weeks, P. A., & Hollingworth, A. (1999). The effects of semantic consistency on eye movements during complex scene viewing. Journal of Experimental Psychology, 25, 210–228.Google Scholar
  16. Hyde, J. S. (2005). The gender similarities hypothesis. American Psychologist, 60, 581–592.PubMedCrossRefGoogle Scholar
  17. Janssen, E., Carpenter, D., & Graham, C. (2003). Selecting film clips for sex research: Gender differences in erotic film preference. Archives of Sexual Behavior, 32, 243–251.PubMedCrossRefGoogle Scholar
  18. Jones Carlson, D. (2001). Social comparison and body image: Attractiveness comparisons to models and peers among adolescent girls and boys. Sex Roles, 45, 645–664.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  19. Kirsch-Rosenkrantz, J., & Geer, J. H. (1991). Gender differences in memory for a sexual story. Archives of Sexual Behavior, 20, 295–305.PubMedCrossRefGoogle Scholar
  20. Laan, E., Everaerd, W., van Bellen, G., & Hanewald, G. (1994). Women’s sexual and emotional responses to male- and female-produced erotica. Archives of Sexual Behavior, 23, 153–169.PubMedCrossRefGoogle Scholar
  21. Leitenberg, H., & Henning, K. (1995). Sexual fantasy. Psychological Bulletin, 117, 469–496.PubMedCrossRefGoogle Scholar
  22. Lippa, R. A. (2005). Gender, nature, and nurture (2nd ed.). Mahwah, NJ: Erlbaum.Google Scholar
  23. Lundquist, D., & Ohman, A. (2005). Emotion regulates attention: The relation between facial configurations, facial emotion, and visual attention. Visual Cognition, 12, 51–84.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  24. Lykins, A. D., Meana, M., & Kambe, G. (2006). Detection of differential viewing patterns to erotic and non-erotic stimuli using eye-tracking methodology. Archives of Sexual Behavior, 35, 569–575.PubMedCrossRefGoogle Scholar
  25. Meuwissen, I., & Over, R. (1991). Multidimensionality of the content of female sexual fantasy. Behaviour Research and Therapy, 29, 179–189.PubMedCrossRefGoogle Scholar
  26. Mosher, D. L., & MacIan, P. (1994). College men and women respond to X-rated videos intended for male or female audiences: Gender and sexual scripts. Journal of Sex Research, 31, 99–113.Google Scholar
  27. Oliver, M. B., & Hyde, J. S. (1993). Gender differences in sexuality: A meta-analysis. Psychological Bulletin, 114, 29–51.PubMedCrossRefGoogle Scholar
  28. Rayner, K. (1995). Eye movements and cognitive processes in reading, visual search, and scene perception. In J. M. Findley, R. Walker, & R. W. Kentridge (Eds.), Eye movement research: Mechanisms, processes and applications (pp. 3–22). New York: Elsevier Science.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  29. Schmidt, G., Sigusch, V., & Schafer, S. (1973). Responses to reading erotic stories: Male-female differences. Archives of Sexual Behavior, 2, 181–199.PubMedCrossRefGoogle Scholar
  30. Sigusch, V., Schmidt, G., Reinfeld, A., & Wiedermann-Sutor, I. W. (1970). Psychosexual stimulation: Sex differences. Journal of Sex Research, 6, 10–24.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  31. Smith, D., & Over, R. (1991). Male sexual fantasy: Multidimensionality in content. Behaviour Research and Therapy, 29, 267–275.PubMedCrossRefGoogle Scholar
  32. Tokatlidis, O., & Over, R. (1995). Imagery, fantasy, and female sexual arousal. Australian Journal of Psychology, 47, 81–85.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  33. Wells, J. W. (1990). The sexual vocabularies of heterosexual and homosexual males and females for communicating erotically with a sexual partner. Archives of Sexual Behavior, 19, 139–147.PubMedCrossRefGoogle Scholar
  34. Youn, G. (2006). Subjective sexual arousal in response to erotica: Effects of gender, guided fantasy, erotic stimulus, and duration of exposure. Archives of Sexual Behavior, 35, 87–97.PubMedCrossRefGoogle Scholar

Copyright information

© Springer Science+Business Media, LLC 2007

Authors and Affiliations

  • Amy D. Lykins
    • 1
  • Marta Meana
    • 1
  • Gregory P. Strauss
    • 1
  1. 1.Department of PsychologyUniversity of Nevada, Las VegasLas VegasUSA

Personalised recommendations