The Psychology of Human Sexuality (APSY 340)
Study Guide for Exam #2
1. Building Blocks of Relationships (Miller, Chapter 1)
● What are the six specific components of intimacy?
○ sharing information that is not shared with most people
○ affection and understanding
○ Frequent, strong, diverse, and enduring effects on one another
○ overlap between partners’ lives
○ expectations of fairness and respect
Don't forget about the age old question of Are beta blockers agonists or antagonists?
○ belief in (and desire for) the longevity of the relationship.
◦ What are some examples of how each one plays a role in relationships?
● What is the “theory of belongingness”?
● Humans are social creatures with an innate drive to maintain close relationships ● Emphasis on quality over quantity
Correlational support for this theory:
-People in intimate relationships rate their lives as happier and healthier, and tend to live longer
-The presence of a loved one can actually reduce the response to pain or threats
-Loneliness can lead to weakened immune systems
-Widows/Widowers are more likely to die in the first few months after their spouses than if their spouses had lived.
◦ What support do we have for that theory?
● What impact does culture have on intimacy?
Our culture takes an interesting view on intimacy;
Compared to roughly 50 years ago, today we:
Are less likely to ever marry (94% vs. 85%) Don't forget about the age old question of How did imperialism affect india?
Are waiting longer to marry (21.5 vs. 26.5)
Are more likely to cohabitate (5% vs. 60%)
Are more likely to have children born to unwed
parents (5% vs. 41%)
Are more likely to divorce (25% vs. 50%)
Are much more likely to see homosexual marriages (given that the first legal battles began in the 70s)
◦ What are some changes we've seen over the past 50 years in American culture ● What are the four attachment styles we discussed?
◦ What are the two axes upon which they vary?
◦ How are they formed? If you want to learn more check out What is the role of a public relations practitioner when it comes to motivation?
● What are the theories we discussed for why people form relationships?
◦ Psychologically, socially, and evolutionarily?
▪ Theory of Belongingness: Humans are social creatures with
an innate drive to maintain close relationships
● Emphasis on quality over quantity
● Correlational support for this theory:
● People in intimate relationships rate their lives as happier
and healthier, and tend to live longer
● The presence of a loved one can actually reduce the
response to pain or threats
● Loneliness can lead to weakened immune systems If you want to learn more check out What are perspectives on government?
● Widows/Widowers are more likely to die in the first few
months after their spouses than if their spouses had lived.
◦ What are the benefits of relationships?
2. Attraction (Miller, Chapter 3 and Hock, Chapter 4)
● What increases attraction?
◦ How is attraction affected by proximity?
Symmetry: Faces with a strong degree of symmetry are
seen as more beautiful than those with distinct asymmetry
Scent: Straight men prefer the scent of pretty women to
unattractive ones, prefer the scent of symmetrical women
over asymmetrical ones, prefer the scent of women who are
ovulating over those who aren't. Gay men prefer the scent
of gay men over that of straight men. (There are studies for
all of these!)
Height: In general, heterosexuals (both men and women)
prefer that the man to be the taller of the two.
Attractiveness and Trust
Attractiveness and Trust (Major et al., 1984): Female participants wrote an essay, and then were evaluated by a male “reviewer” who gave them feedback
Women were sorted into two attractiveness groups If you want to learn more check out What refers to the process where a cell duplicates itself to form two identical cells?
Women from each group were split into two groups
For half of them, the reviewer could see them prior to reviewing their work.
For the other half, the reviewer never saw them or a picture of them at all
How do you think women in each of the four groups reacted to positive or negative feedback?
Proximity: Liking Those Nearby
In general we tend to like people who live and work near us more than we like people who are far away
Even small distances of a few feet can make a difference! Consider who you've made friends with just while at SUNY Albany? Who do you interact with? Don't forget about the age old question of What is thinking?
Proximity is rewarding, distance is costly
People close at hand can provide us with more benefits more quickly and at lesser expense than distant partners can.
Relates to mutuality and interdependency; relationships can lose some intimacy due to distance
The mere exposure effect states that just being around something (being familiar with it) makes it more liked than something we are unfamiliar with
Moreland and Beach (1992): Student confederates sat in on classes either 0, 5, 10, or 15 times, and then students in those classes were asked to rate the attractiveness and likability of the confederates.
Confederates never interacted with the class or
the other students at all
Still, more appearances => Higher ratings
Proximity accentuates feelings: over-exposure to obnoxious
people makes them less liked, exposure to likable people makes
them more liked.
Bernard Murstein's Stimulus-Value-Role theory (1987): We
initially judge similarity based on “stimulus” information
(age, looks), then based on “value” information (beliefs,
attitudes, shared likes/dislikes), then finally based on “role”
information (how we behave in relationships, how we see
parenting, careers, etc).
Fatal Attractions: When a trait that initially attracted us to
an individual becomes one of the most disliked, obnoxious,
or irritating traits of that individual
Usually these are things that are different from us,
which first seem interesting or novel but may
eventually cause relationship friction
3. Communication (Miller, Chapter 5 and Hock, Chapter 4)
- Involves everything that people do during an interaction with one another except for the words they say to one another
- Nonverbal communication provides information, helps regulate interactions, and carries signals relating to power, intimacy, status, and emotional content of our interactions
- Allows for subtle (or not!) changes in the meaning of our spoken words
● What is the difference between verbal and nonverbal communication?
● What is the role of nonverbal communication?
● How do you define, and what can be conveyed through, the following?
◦ Facial expressions?
● Facial expressions are essentially universal (even blind individuals display the same expressions we do) and are both informative and compelling... if they're genuine!
● Tend to be managed or manipulated based on display rules (cultural norms for what is considered to be appropriate)
● Can be intensified, minimized, withheld, masked, or replaced
● Often convey context information during conversations
▪ What are “display rules”?
◦ Gazing behaviors?
▪ Our eyes tend to convey the direction and intensity of our focus on part of our surroundings
▪ Looking at an individual conveys interest and attention (and prolonged exposure can be intimate, or even disconcerting)
▪ Strangers who spend time looking into each others's eyes tend to like each other more than they would if they looked somewhere else
▪ Prolonged or intense eye contact can also communicate dominance
▪ Visual Dominance Ratio (60/40)
▪ Body movements?
Unlike facial expressions and eye contact, gestures tend to vary widely across cultures
Body posture and motion, however, are relatively universal, though less accurate than expressions
Touching tends to be a very powerful sign of the intimacy and power dynamics in a relationships
▪ Touch conveys affection, closeness, and touch
▪ Touching tends to increase with intimacy
▪ Touching also conveys dominance: high-status people will touch low-status people more than vice versa
▪ Touching also requires that we be in close proximity to an individual, and the closer that proximity the more intimate the relationship is seen as being
▪ Interpersonal Distance?
The four “zones” or ranges of personal space come from a model by Hall (1966) ▪ lIntimate zone: intense and shared emotions (kissing and punching both occur here) ▪ Personal zone: Friends and acquaintances go here
▪ Social zone: For people we don't know well
▪ Public zone: For those we don't know at all; for strangers in public
▪ What are the four “zones” according to Hall's model?
Variations in our voices and speech that aren't the actual words we use (just everything else!) ▪ Rhythm
▪ An example: Baby talk, which oddly is also used with lovers, pets, and the elderly or infirm ▪ What are some gender-based or cultural-based differences in the list above?
● What is the role of verbal communication?
The words and phrases used to talk to each other
● What is self disclosure?
•A few types of communication play a particularly large role in creating intimacy and in intimate relationships (both sexual and non)
•Self-Disclosure: Revealing important or confidential information
One of the defining features of intimacy, and can even create intimacy (much
like eye gazing)
Tends to be a gradual process
Social Penetration Theory: Relationships develop through systematic changes in topics and styles of conversation
As a relationship grows, conversation topics gain both breadth and depth
New partners tend to match each others' depths of social penetration and self-disclosure, and can be thrown off when someone responds at an unexpected depth (either disclosing too much or not as much as expected)
•Secrets: Information we don't share with anyone (or almost anyone)
•Flirting: Social communication (verbal or non) designed to invite interaction
Alternate Theory: Interpersonal Process Model of Intimacy (Reis and Shaver, 1988) Argues that intimacy develops because of shared levels of self-disclosure
Chicken-and-egg problem: If we don't feel intimate, or perceive our partners to be caring, understanding, respectful, etc, we won't share with them, and if we don't share with them, we won't feel as intimate!
Highlights risk-taking nature of relationships
◦ Attachment styles:
● •Began with studies (Bowlby, 1969) of how parents interacted with their infants:
● •Secure: Infants got responsive care when needed, and learn that other people can be trustworthy and helpful
● •Anxious-Ambivalent: Infants got inconsistent, anxious care, and learned that other people are unpredictable and unreliable; become “clingy” to caregivers
● •Avoidant: Infants get little care from hostile or rejecting parents; learn to become suspicious, hostile, and distrusting
● What we say and how we say it can be impacted by our attachment styles
● Compared to the other three styles of attachment, secure individuals are:
● •More likely to exhibit warm and expressive body language
● •Likely to keep fewer things secret from their partners in relationships
● •More likely to be open and honest with their partners
● lIn general, secure marriages are more satisfying
◦ Gender differences:
▪ Within-group differences are much larger than between-group differences! That said... ▪ Among themselves, women tend to discuss topics in depth while men tend to talk in breadth ▪ •As a result, male-male friendships tend to be less intimate than female-female friendships ▪ •Interestingly, these differences vanish when men and women talk to each other
▪ •Important to note that these are also gender differences, not sex differences
● Myth: Women are more shy/subtle than men. Not always true; both genders are more tentative when talking about topics they're less comfortable with, but tend to be equal for neutral topics
● Myth: Women talk a lot more than men. Not meaningfully true, but there are differences in how they talk; men tend to talk in longer monologues, and get interrupted less often. Women talk in shorter bursts and are interrupted more
● Myth: Men tend to be more vulgar: True! Men tend to use more profane language than women ● Gender and self disclosure:
◦ Women tend to self-disclose more than men and also tend to elicit more self-disclosure as well ◦ “Men open up to women, and women are open among themselves, but men disclose less to men” ◦ Leads to a trend where both genders rely more on women for emotional support
◦ Men tend to value instrumental speaking skills, while women tend to value expressive skills
◦ The above all happen more in people who are more gender-traditional; androgynous people of either gender tend to fall more in the middle
◦ Personal levels of expressivity are much more meaningful guides of how a person interacts with others
4. Love (Miller, Chapter 8 and Hock, Chapter 4)
l It depends. But, generally, a sort of happy empathy
l When are we? Where are we? WHO are we? What type of love are we even talking about? • Culturally: Is love desirable?
• Sexuality: Should love be sexual? Should sex be loving?
• Orientation: Is love restricted to certain combinations of individuals?
• Marital Status: Is love for spouses only?
l Marriage for love is relatively recently: in 1967, roughly 76% of women (and 35% of men) would have married an otherwise-perfect partner without love
Historical opinions of love
Love is doomed: romantic love is sweet but short
Love is a mental issue: love is madness
Love is a noble quest: a potentially unreachable goal
Love need not involve sex
Love can be happy and fulfilling
Love has little to do with marriage
Love has everything to do with marriage
The best love occurs between people of the same sex
Love only occurs between people of opposite sexes
Love is like the wind; you can't see it but you can feel it.
Love is finding someone so special that you see no one else.
Love is that condition in which the happiness of another person is essential to your own. You know you’re in love when you can’t fall asleep because reality is finally better than your dreams. It is not a lack of love, but a lack of friendship that makes unhappy marriages.
The best love is the kind that awakens the soul.
Love is a sandwich – it's the layering on of parts and hoping we get the order right.
John Lee’s Style:
Defining love is inherently fraught, as we've seen!
Theory centers on the idea that people have particular styles for how they approach romantic love Describes three primary styles of love and three secondary combinations of love, drawing on terms and loose definitions from Greek mythology
Primary: Eros, Storge, Ludos
Not exclusive styles; more for characterizing particular relationships than individuals
Eros: Highly sexual and passionate relationship, mostly based on physical energy and arousal. most likely to believe in “love at first sight”.
Storge: Natural affection grows from friendship and commitment; less interested in or focused on passion as an important aspect of relationships
Ludus: Focused on the “chase” of love; revel in the lack of commitment and the early stages of a relationship
Secondary: Pragma, Mania, Agape
Pragma (Ludus + Storge): Based on practicality and compatibility; relationship revolves around shared goals and social interactions (business-like)
Mania (Eros + Ludus): Extreme relationship highs and lows; can result from low self-esteem or preoccupied attachment styles. Full of fantasy and intense feelings of possession.
Agape (Eros + Storge): “Holy” or “brotherly” love; generally selfless and compassionate; altruistic love that can be seen as a duty or vow.
Passion: Feelings or desires that lead to romance, attraction, sex, and intensity of emotion. • Quickest to bloom, quickest to fade
Intimacy: Feelings of closeness, connectedness, bondedness between partners
l Commitment: Feelings of persistence or desires to see things continue or grow in the long term • Slowest to develop, slowest to fade
These three aspects are all independent and the various combinations of them can be seen as various forms of love and relationship.
Pure types of love
Infatuation (Pure Passion): Whirlwind, intense and usually sexual connection/attraction, based on shallow understanding of one another
• Example: One night stand, Crush
Liking (Pure Intimacy): Close friendship lacking in passion and emotional desire and without commitment. • Example: Middle School “Best Friends”
Empty Love (Pure Commitment): Relationship that exists just for the sake of staying together. May be the beginning of a relationship (arranged marriages) or end of a relationship (once passion fades away) • Example: Loveless marriage
Composite types of love
Romantic Love (Passion + Intimacy): Emotional and sexual attraction and connection.
• Example: Summer Love (happens so fast...)
Fatuous Love (Passion + Commitment): A commitment to staying together based on passion alone; “taking a chance on love”.
• Example: Whirlwind Marriage
Companionate Love (Intimacy + Commitment): A type of relationship characterized by deep, lasting friendship and caring, but without the intensity of passion
• Lifelong friendship or later stages of a long and caring marriage
Extreme types of love:
lNon-Love (No Passion, Intimacy, or Commitment): An absence of all three primary components of love • Example: Acquaintances or strangers
Consummate Love (Passion + Intimacy + Commitment): Sternberg's ideal form of love, in which couples share a strong, intense, and persistent love for one another
• Example: Stereotypical happy marriage
Sternberg says that consummate love is akin to getting in shape: doable for a short period of time, but much more difficult to maintain for life.
Relationships require effort! Each facet requires maintenance to not fade over time.
Other Theories of love
Behavioral Reinforcement Theories:
We like people that are associated with good feelings, and love people that are associated with very good feelings Works in reverse:
good traits and
people we love
or have romantic
(Goodwin et al., 2002)
Physiological Arousal Theories:
• 1) Physical arousal, and
• 2) The belief that the arousal is associated with a particular target
We often mis-attribute arousal from other sources:
• Scary, gory, or funny movies
• Physical activity
• Anxious or intense environments
Compared to people who are not in a loving relationship, those who are:
• Have lower rates of health problems
• Tend to live longer
• Have better eating habits and dietary health
• Tend to take fewer risks
• Tend to have lower stress levels
• Tend to respond less to stress and pain
In general, those with secure attachment styles show more benefits than other attachment styles 5. Sexuality and Sexual Behaviors (Miller, Chapter 9 and Hock, Chapter 6)- left here ● What is “casual sex”?
Within the United States we have wide differences in views on
sex, marriage, sexuality, etc.
Racially: In general, African Americans are the most permissive
about sex, followed by Caucasians, Hispanic Americans, and
Asian Americans in that order (Fugere et al, 2008)
Politically In general, Conservatives and Republicans have less
permissive views on sexuality (and more traditional views on
marriage and gender roles) than do Progressives or Liberals
Religiously: In general, stronger religious beliefs are tied to less
permissive sexual views, and vice versa
When it comes to both sexual behavior and sexual
attitudes, it's important to remember that these are
statistical generalizations not prescriptive suggestions.
These data are also not intended to present value
judgments (except where noted).
In short: It's totally ok to not be in the “majority” here,
and it shouldn't be taken as a source of
embarrassment or shame to be on any side of these
Beginnings of Sexual Activity: Most people (95%) have
sexual intercourse before marriage
Average age of first sex: ~17 years old
Average age of first marriage: ~24
By the age of 20, roughly 85% of people report having had
According to a 2004 study, most “first times” occurred in a
steady, emotionally-important relationship as a result of
increasingly sexual behavior
Roughly 21% were acquaintances or casual friends with their first partners
Teenagers who haven't had sex yet have mixed
feelings about the prospect of their “first time”:
Most young women are ambivalent, some are
opposed, and only ~1/3 are eager
Most young men are eager, some are opposed,
and only ~1/3 are ambivalent
Most people react similarly afterwards: first-time sex is viewed positively if it occurred in a positive relationship, and is viewed with more regret if it involves unsafe practices, much older partners, or if the sex is viewed as “morally inconsistent”
How Often do People Have Sex?
Sex is more likely in committed relationships
Frequency of intercourse is negatively correlated with age Sexual orientation affects frequency :
Lesbian couples report the least sex
New gay couples report the most sex; this frequency decreases with the length of the relationship
In general, people have inaccurate beliefs about the amount of sex other people are having, and often judge themselves as not having as much sex as they would like
On average, college-aged couples in committed
relationships have the most sex (roughly 3x a week) Singles tend to have much less sex
Monogamy and Infidelity
Roughly 21% of women and 32% of men say they have been sexually unfaithful to their partners at least once
Men are more likely to have extradyadic (outside the couple) sex than women and tend to have more positive (or less negative) attitudes towards casual sex
Men tend to report sexual variety as their main reason for cheating, while women tend to report seeking an emotional connection
In general, lesbians and heterosexual partners of either gender have similar levels of extradyadic sex, while gay men are much more likely to do so
May not be cheating!
Why do we cheat?
Different “sociosexual orientations” (views on the relationship between intimacy and sex)
Those who view sex as unconnected to sex or intimacy are much more likely to cheat
Various styles of love are correlated with extradyadic sex
Relationship factors (satisfaction with the relationship) are related to likelihood of cheating as well
Those with secure attachment styles are least likely to cheat One evolutionary theory: Good Genes Hypothesis
Women might benefit from cuckolding (having a child with one man while another raises the child)
Desire to seek out and engage in sexual situations or behaviors
“Libido” = “Sex Drive”
Basic gender differences: Men tend to have higher and more consistent sex drives than women do (though the “7 seconds” thing is BS)
Men tend to experience more frequent, more intense sexual desires than women do and they are more routinely motivated to engage in sexual activity than women are
Gender Differences in Desire
Men masturbate more often, both in or out of relationships:
50% of men in relationships masturbate more than once/week; 16% of women
73% of men report having masturbated in the past month; 37% of women
Men are more likely to be dissatisfied with the amount of sex they get (and usually want more, not less)
Men tend to fantasize and think about sex more often than women do (roughly 3-4 times as often)
Men spend more money on sex and sex paraphernalia Men are more accepting of casual sex
In new relationships, men tend to want sex to occur sooner than women do, leaving women to be the
“gatekeepers” of sex.
Frustration and annoyance can result from
mismatched levels of desire; mismatches tend to
worsen with age (female sex drives drop faster than male sex drives do)
May result in “concessions” in exchange for sex
“Principle of Lesser Interest”
Leads to pressure and expectations (not necessarily conscious)
Most people who are in good health, free of sexual problems, and have a steady partner are happy with their sex lives. When there's a problem in one of these areas, we see sexual dissatisfaction.
In general we see a negative relationship between number of partners and sexual satisfaction.
What might be the causality here?
In general we see a positive relationship between frequency of
sex and satisfaction.
What might be the causality here?
Some evidence: Over time, newlyweds are more pleased when sex becomes more frequent
We are most likely to be happy and healthy when we “routinely engage in activities that allow for autonomy, competence, and relatedness.”
Sexual behaviors fit this description!
In general, very traditional gender roles undermine this satisfaction by removing a lot of the autonomy.
People report sex as more rewarding when both partners are more eager.
Approach-Avoidance and Sex: Sex that is designed to “approach” outcomes is seen as far more fulfilling and satisfying than sex designed to “avoid” outcomes
People often find communication about sex awkward, and often try to send indirect nonverbal signals of consent or desire for sex.
“Yes” is much more rare than not saying “No”
Partners who talk candidly report having more fulfilling sexual experiences than those who don't communicate
Masters and Johnson actually concluded that same-sex couples have better sex than heterosexual couples, in part because they are much more likely to communicate openly about sexual desires and dislikes.
Communication also helps avoid misunderstandings (flirting vs. seduction) that can be awkward or worse.
Sexual Satisfaction doesn't occur in a vacuum: our feelings and satisfaction with relationships and ourselves also impacts our
The best sex seems to depend on:
Each person having his or her needs met and understood by an invested partner
Valuing one's partner and being interested in and devoted to the relationship
Enjoying being with the other individual, whether in sexual or nonsexual situations