Motivation and Emotion

, Volume 7, Issue 2, pp 191–202 | Cite as

Facilitating sexual arousal via anger, aggression, or dominance

  • Kathryn Kelley
  • Carol T. Miller
  • Donn Byrne
  • Paul A. Bell


The hypothesis that either an angry emotional state or the expression of aggressive behavior facilitates sexual arousal has been the subject of considerable speculation but relatively little research. In a series of studies, Barclay found that anger increased sexual arousal as measured by the amount of sexual imagery produced in response to TAT-like stimuli that depicted males and females in dominant and submissive roles. In the present research, a series of experiments was conducted to determine whether such facilitation can be generalized beyond the specific procedures used by Barclay. Subjects (151 males and 136 females) in three experiments were angered by being negatively evaluated by a confederate identified as a fellow subject. Some subjects were subsequently given an opportunity to aggress; additionally, some subjects were exposed to male- and female-dominant pictorial stimuli. Results indicated that neither anger instigation nor the opportunity to engage in aggressive acts influenced self-reported sexual arousal. There was consistent evidence, however, that portrayals of dominance influenced perceptions of the stimulus person's sexuality. Though anger and aggression do not seem to facilitate sexual arousal, dominance cues (which can be confounded with anger manipulation) clearly elicit perceptions of sexuality.


Social Psychology Aggressive Behavior Emotional State Sexual Arousal Specific Procedure 
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Copyright information

© Plenum Publishing Corporation 1983

Authors and Affiliations

  • Kathryn Kelley
    • 1
  • Carol T. Miller
    • 2
  • Donn Byrne
    • 1
  • Paul A. Bell
    • 3
  1. 1.Department of PsychologyState University of New York at AlbanyAlbany
  2. 2.University of VermontUSA
  3. 3.Colorado State UniversityUSA

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