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Excitation Transfer Theory

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Dr. Dolf Zillmann from the University of Alabama began developing excitation transfer theory in the early 1970s when he recognized the sympathetic ner...

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Издатель
Dr. Dolf Zillmann from the University of Alabama began developing excitation transfer theory in the early 1970s when he recognized the sympathetic nervous system often fools the central nervous system.
Our sympathetic nervous systems automatically react with physiological arousal (increased heart rate, blood pressure, and respiration rate) from things we are exposed to in our environments that cause us to fight, flight, feed, or act sexually; whereas our central nervous systems, composed of the brain and spinal cord, allow us to think and interpret the goings-on within our environments.

Dr. Zillmann found sympathetic nervous system arousal can transfer to neutral stimuli within the environment. This transfer occurs via Pavlovian conditioning; and in specific circumstances is interpreted by the central nervous system as being sexual.

For example, Dr. Zillmann found initial evidence for this transfer of sexual arousal with experimental participants who were cycling on stationary bicycles for 10 minutes before viewing erotic films. Participants with excited sympathetic nervous systems from cycling found the erotic films to be more sexually arousing than participants who were not cycling before viewing the films.

Now, let me be clear, cycling per se does not lead to sexual arousal. Instead, the key to the transfer of sexual arousal is amping up the sympathetic nervous system before a potentially sexually arousing situation.

Dr. Richard Dienstbier from the University of Nebraska amped up the sympathetic nervous systems of experimental participants by startling them. He did this by suddenly jerking their chairs back 35 degrees from vertical while dropping a four-pound brass plate on the ground. Following this startle, Dr. Dienstbier had an opposite-sex experimenter enter the room where the participants were seated.

Participants with excited sympathetic nervous systems from the startle had greater sexual attraction towards the opposite-sex experimenter than participants who had not been startled before meeting the experimenter.

Dr. Gregory White from National University amped up the sympathetic nervous systems of experimental participants by either negative or positive environmental events. He had participants listen to a graphic recording about a mob killing or to a humorous recording of a comedian or to a recording of a monotone narrator describing a frog’s circulatory system. Following the audio recordings, participants viewed a film in-which an opposite-sex person gave a brief biography of themselves.

Participants with excited sympathetic nervous systems from the graphic and humorous audio recordings rated the people introducing themselves as significantly more sexually attractive than participants who had listened to the recording about the frog’s circulatory system.

Dr. Donald Dutton from the University of British Columbia and Dr. Arthur Aron from the State University of New York showed this transfer of sexual arousal occurs in real-life settings beyond the laboratory. They had experimental participants either walk across a narrow suspension bridge, that was more than 200 feet above roaring rapids — and tended to tilt, bounce, sway, and wobble. (If you want to try this yourself, visit the Capilano Suspension Bridge in Canada.) Or they had participants walk across a bridge that was wide, low to the ground, solid, and immobile. After participants walked across their respective bridges, an opposite-sex experimenter asked them to fill-out a survey and gave them a phone number to call if they had any further questions.

Participants with excited sympathetic nervous systems, from walking across the high, narrow, swaying bridge, were almost four times as likely to call with questions to the opposite-sex experimenter than participants who had walked across the bridge that was wide, low, solid, and immobile. And as Drs. Dutton and Aron predicted, these questions were less about the experiment and more personal about the experimenter.

Another real-life empirical demonstration of excitation transfer was done by Dr. Cindy Meston of the University of Texas. Dr. Meston interviewed people before and after riding roller coasters at an amusement park. She found people who were riding with romantic partners, rated their partners as being more sexually attractive after riding the roller coaster than before riding it — theoretically because of their excited sympathetic nervous systems from riding the roller coaster. Dr. Meston also found people who were riding alone, rated a photograph of an opposite-sex individual, as being more sexually attractive after riding the roller coaster than before riding it.

For a complete transcript of this video including references, check out: https://humansexuality.medium.com/excitation-transfer-theory-3a2c390d1db2

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