Classical conditioning of female sexual arousal

Elizabeth J. Letourneau, William O'Donohue

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

30 Scopus citations


The classical conditioning of subjective and physiological aspects of female sexual arousal was examined. Experimental subjects were run in a delayed conditioning design, where an amber light was paired with excerpts from erotic videos. Control subjects received presentations of the same amber light and videos, but these presentations did not overlap with one another. Dependent variables included subjective ratings of arousal to the light and the videos as well as change in vaginal pulse amplitude assessed during exposure to the different stimuli. Experimental subjects evidenced increased arousal to the light over conditioning trials, as assessed by subjective ratings of sexual arousal. This finding is suggestive of a learned effect. However, results failed to indicate significant differences between experimental and control groups. Therefore, the increased arousal to the light evidenced by experimental subjects may not be due to classical conditioning. Suggestions regarding these findings, clinical implications, and future research are discussed.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)63-78
Number of pages16
JournalArchives of Sexual Behavior
Issue number1
StatePublished - Feb 20 1997
Externally publishedYes


  • classical conditioning
  • female sexual arousal
  • vaginal photoplethysmography

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Arts and Humanities (miscellaneous)
  • Psychology(all)


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