Expectancies and Sexual Arousal

Numerous laboratory studies have shown that men without sexual dysfunction respond to erotic cues with positive affect, positive expectancies, and perceived control of erectile response whereas men with a history of sexual dysfunction respond to erotic cues with negative affect, negative expectancies, and perceived lack of control of erectile response. These findings have been explained in terms of a feedback loop whereby expectancies are shaped by an individual’s recollections of past sexual experiences (Barlow, 1986). To begin examining the role of expectancies on women’s sexual response, we (McCall & Meston, 2007) investigated the impact of both false positive and false negative feedback (vaginal photoplethysmograph response print-out) on subsequent sexual responding in sexually healthy women and women with female sexual arousal disorder (FSAD). False positive feedback increased subjective arousal in both groups of women whereas false negative feedback decreased subjective levels of arousal in both groups of women. Sexually healthy women had overall higher expectancies for sexual arousal than women with FSAD. Unexpectedly, false positive feedback did not significantly impact physiological arousal in sexually healthy women but decreased physiological arousal in women with FSAD. False negative feedback had no significant effect on physiological sexual response in sexually healthy women or women with FSAD.

Recommended paper:

McCall, K. M., & Meston, C. M. (2007). The effects of false positive and false negative physiological feedback on sexual arousal: A comparison of women with or without sexual arousal disorder. Archives of Sexual Behavior, 36(4), 518-530. PDF (310 KB)