Skip to main content

The long-term habituation of sexual arousal in human males: A crossover design

Abstract

Short-term and long-term habituation of sexual arousal was investigated in a crossover design. Nine subjects completed six sessions semiweekly for 3 consecutive weeks. Sessions were scheduled at least 2 days but not more than 4 days apart. Each session consisted of 15 stimulus periods and 15 detumescence periods. Sexually explicit audio stimuli were administered. There were two conditions in the crossover design, which allowed each participant to serve as his own control. During one half of the sessions subjects were exposed to 15 different scripts (varied condition); during the remaining sessions subjects were exposed to the same script 45 times (15 trials for each of three sessions, the constant condition). The constant stimulus condition was the experimental habituation condition, whereas the varied stimuli served as a control for physiological fatigue. Scripts were randomly assigned to stimulus conditions. Subjects showed systematic decreases in penile responding within the second and third constant stimulus conditions, but no systematic decreases were noted in any of the varied stimulus conditions. Subjects evidenced significant long-term decreases in physiological responding only in the constant stimulus condition as well as short-term decreases in subjective report of arousal. Long-term habituation of sexual arousal may be related to molar behaviors such as promiscuity and the spread of sexually transmitted diseases, and may be tied to sociobiological accounts of long-term sexual behavior patterns in human males.

This is a preview of subscription content, access via your institution.

References

  • AMERICAN PSYCHIATRIC ASSOCIATION. (1994). Diagnostic and statistical manual of mental disorders (4th ed.) Washington DC: Author.

    Google Scholar 

  • DEWSBURY, D. A. (1981). Effects of novelty on copulatory behavior: The Coolidge effect and related phenomena. Psychological Bulletin, 89, 464–482.

    Article  Google Scholar 

  • GAITHER, G. A., ROSENKRANZ, R. R., & PLAUD, J. J. (in press). Sexual deviations. In J. J. Plaud & G. H. Eiferts (Eds.), From behavior theory to behavior therapy. Boston: Allyn & Bacon.

  • KOUKOUNAS, E., & OVER, R. (1993). Habituation and dishabituation of male sexual arousal. Behavioral Research and Therapy, 31, 575–585.

    Article  Google Scholar 

  • LEATON, R. N. (1976). Long-term retention of the habituation of lick suppression and startle response produced by a single auditory stimulus. Journal of Experimental Psychology: Animal Behavior Processes, 2, 248–289.

    PubMed  Google Scholar 

  • MEUWISSEN, I., & OVER, R. (1990). Habituation and dishabituation of female sexual arousal. Behavioral Research and Therapy, 28, 217–226.

    Article  Google Scholar 

  • MUNJACK, D. J., & OZIEL, L. J. (1980). Sexual medicine and counseling in office practice: A comprehensive treatment guide. New York: Little, Brown and Company.

  • O’DONOHUE, W. T, & GEER, J. M. (1985). The habituation of sexual arousal. Archives of Sexual Behavior, 14, 233–246.

    Article  PubMed  Google Scholar 

  • O’DONOHUE, W., & PLAUD, J. J. (1991). The long-term habituation of sexual arousal in the human male. Journal of Behavior Therapy & Experimental Psychiatry, 22, 87–96.

    Article  Google Scholar 

  • O’DONOHUE, W., & PLAUD, J. J. (1994). The conditioning of human sexual arousal. Archives of Sexual Behavior, 23, 321–344.

    Article  PubMed  Google Scholar 

  • PLAUD, J. J., & HOLM, J. E. (in press). Sexual dysfunctions. In J. J. Plaud & G. H. Eifert (Eds.), From behavior theory to behavior therapy. Boston: Allyn & Bacon.

  • SMITH, D., & OVER, R. (1987). Does fantasy-induced sexual arousal habituate? Behavioral Research and Therapy, 25, 477–485.

    Article  Google Scholar 

  • SYMONS, D. (1987). An evolutionary approach: Can Darwin’s view of life shed light on human sexuality? In J. Geer & W. O’Donohue (Eds.), Theories of human sexuality. New York: Plenum Press.

  • THOMPSON, R. F., & SPENCER, W. A. (1966). Habituation: A model phenomenon for the study of neuronal substrates of behavior. Psychological Review, 73, 16–43.

    Article  PubMed  Google Scholar 

  • WAGNER, A. R. (1979). Habituation and memory. In A. Dickinson & R. A. Boakes (Eds.), Mechanisms of learning and motivation: A memorial to Jerzy Konorski. Hillsdale, NJ: Erlbaum.

    Google Scholar 

  • WINCZE, J. P., & CAREY, M. P. (1991). Sexual dysfunction: A guide for assessment and treatment. New York: Guilford.

    Google Scholar 

Download references

Author information

Authors and Affiliations

Authors

Corresponding author

Correspondence to Joseph J. Plaud.

Additional information

This research was supported by a grant from the National Science Foundation EPSCoR program (4455-2001).

Rights and permissions

Reprints and Permissions

About this article

Verify currency and authenticity via CrossMark

Cite this article

Plaud, J.J., Gaither, G.A., Henderson, S.A. et al. The long-term habituation of sexual arousal in human males: A crossover design. Psychol Rec 47, 385–398 (1997). https://doi.org/10.1007/BF03395233

Download citation

  • Published:

  • Issue Date:

  • DOI: https://doi.org/10.1007/BF03395233