The interaction of state and trait aspects of self-focused attention affects genital, but not subjective, sexual arousal in sexually functional women

J.J.D.M. van Lankveld*, S. Bergh

*Corresponding author for this work

Research output: Contribution to journalArticleAcademicpeer-review


In this study we investigated the effects of state and trait aspects of self-focused attention on genital and subjective sexual arousal of sexually functional, healthy women during presentation of audiovisual erotic stimuli. Psychophysiological sexual response was measured as vaginal pulse amplitude using a vaginal photoplethysmograph. Experiential aspects of sexual arousal were measured both during stimulus presentation and retrospectively after stimulus offset. Trait level of sexual self-focus was measured with the Sexual Self-Consciousness Scale. State self-focus was induced by switching on a TV camera that pointed at the participant's face and upper torso. A manipulation check revealed that both groups experienced equally elevated levels of self-focused attention of their physical appearance. Induction of state self-focus per se did not affect genital responses, but an interaction effect of self-focus and participants' level of trait sexual self-focus was revealed. Compared with women with low scores on this trait, women with high scores exhibited smaller genital responses when state self-focus was induced. Both groups did not differ when no self-focus was induced. Increase of state self-focus did not affect subjective sexual arousal, but participants with a high level of trait sexual self-focus reported stronger subjective arousal, compared with those with low trait level. The results were discussed with reference to previous work in this field. Some implications for treatment of sexual arousal disorder were discussed.
Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)514-528
JournalBehaviour Research and Therapy
Issue number4
Publication statusPublished - 1 Jan 2008

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