Archives of Sexual Behavior

, Volume 46, Issue 1, pp 141–153 | Cite as

Visual Attention Patterns of Women with Androphilic and Gynephilic Sexual Attractions

  • Samantha J. Dawson
  • Katherine M. Fretz
  • Meredith L. ChiversEmail author
Special Section: The Puzzle of Sexual Orientation


Women who report exclusive sexual attractions to men (i.e., androphilia) exhibit gender-nonspecific patterns of sexual response—similar magnitude of genital response to both male and female targets. Interestingly, women reporting any degree of attraction to women (i.e., gynephilia) show significantly greater sexual responses to stimuli depicting female targets compared to male targets. At present, the mechanism(s) underlying these patterns are unknown. According to the information processing model (IPM), attentional processing of sexual cues initiates sexual responding; thus, attention to sexual cues may be one mechanism to explain the observed within-gender differences in specificity findings among women. The purpose of the present study was to examine patterns of initial and controlled visual attention among women with varying sexual attractions. We used eye tracking to assess visual attention to sexually preferred and nonpreferred cues in a sample of 164 women who differed in their degree of androphilia and gynephilia. We found that both exclusively and predominantly androphilic women showed gender-nonspecific patterns of initial attention. In contrast, ambiphilic (i.e., concurrent androphilia and gynephilia) and predominantly/exclusively gynephilic women oriented more quickly toward female targets. Controlled attention patterns mirrored patterns of self-reported sexual attractions for three of these four groups of women, such that gender-specific patterns of visual attention were found for androphilic and gynephilic women. Ambiphilic women looked significantly longer at female targets compared to male targets. These findings support predictions from the IPM and suggest that both initial and controlled attention to sexual cues may be mechanisms contributing to within-gender variation in sexual responding.


Gender specificity Eye tracking Visual attention Information processing model Sexual orientation Sexual arousal 



This research was supported in part by a grant from the American Institute of Bisexuality awarded to M. L. Chivers and an Ontario Trillium Scholarship awarded to S. J. Dawson. The authors would like to thank Katrina Bouchard, Jackie Huberman, and Kelly Suschinsky for their thoughtful suggestions on an earlier version of this article. This paper was presented at the annual meetings of the International Academy of Sex Research in Toronto, ON, Canada, August 2015, and Canadian Sex Research Forum, Kelowna, BC, Canada, September 2015, as well as the quinquennial meeting of the Puzzle of Sexual Orientation Workshop in Lethbridge, AB, Canada, July 2015.

Compliance with Ethical Standards

Conflict of interest

Samantha J. Dawson, Katherine M. Fretz, and Meredith L. Chivers declare that they have no conflicts of interest.

Ethical Approval

All procedures were approved under the General Research Ethics Board at Queen’s University.

Informed Consent

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


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Copyright information

© Springer Science+Business Media New York 2016

Authors and Affiliations

  • Samantha J. Dawson
    • 1
  • Katherine M. Fretz
    • 1
  • Meredith L. Chivers
    • 2
    Email author
  1. 1.354 Humphrey Hall, Department of PsychologyQueen’s University at KingstonKingstonCanada
  2. 2.218 Craine Hall, Department of PsychologyQueen’s University at KingstonKingstonCanada

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