Archives of Sexual Behavior

, Volume 48, Issue 3, pp 781–794 | Cite as

Assessing Cognitive Appraisals Related to Sexual Function: A Scenario-Based Approach

  • Julia VeltenEmail author
  • Simon E. Blackwell
  • Jürgen Margraf
  • Marcella L. Woud
Original Paper


Cognitive factors play an important role in the etiology and maintenance of sexual difficulties. To date, research has mostly relied on self-report measures to assess negative cognitions related to low sexual function. To overcome the limitations of self-report questionnaires, a series of open-ended, ambiguous sexual scenarios were developed and presented to participants (N = 600, Mage = 34.2 years), who were asked to generate an ending by entering a continuation for each scenario. Valence of completed scenarios was rated by the participants, and scenario endings were coded by two independent raters on three dimensions, namely reference to sexual problems, sexual communication, and the use of sexually explicit language. Sexual function was assessed with the Female Sexual Function Index and the International Index of Erectile Function. Multiple regression analyses were performed to assess whether the scenario-based task was associated with sexual function above and beyond other predictors (e.g., sexual distress). Individuals with lower sexual function rated the completed scenarios more negatively, and their endings included more references to problems related to low sexual function. In women with low sexual function, fewer endings included sexual communication with a partner or sexually explicit language. Our findings suggest that individuals with low sexual function appraise ambiguous sexual situations more negatively than other individuals. Future studies may investigate whether such biases can be experimentally manipulated and whether changes in cognitive biases may, in turn, lead to improvements in sexual function.


Sexual problems Sexual function Cognitive biases Cognitive appraisals Indirect measures Scenario task 



The authors received no specific funding for this work.

Compliance with Ethical Standards

Ethical Approval

All procedures performed in studies involving human participants were in accordance with the ethical standards of the institutional and/or national research committee and with the 1964 Helsinki declaration and its later amendments or comparable ethical standards.

Informed Consent

Informed consent was obtained from all individual participants included in the study.


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© Springer Science+Business Media, LLC, part of Springer Nature 2019

Authors and Affiliations

  1. 1.Mental Health Research and Treatment Center, Department of Clinical Psychology and Psychotherapy, Faculty of PsychologyRuhr-Universität BochumBochumGermany

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