Normative Influence Effects on Sexual Arousal to Nonviolent Sexually Explicit Material1


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    Portions of this manuscript were based on the author's doctoral dissertation. The author would like to thank Shirley Feldman-Summers, Steven L. Buck, Diane M. Morrison, Herman H. Samson, and an anonymous reviewer for their comments on drafts ot this paper.

Correspondence concerning this article should be sent to Jeanette Norris, who is now at the Alcohol and Drug Abuse Institute, University of Washington, NL-15, Seattle, WA 98195.


The role of informational social influence in sexual arousal was explored by measuring the effects of normative influence messages on sexual arousal to a nonviolent sexually explicit story in both male and female subjects. The type of message (high versus low arousal), as well as the reference group sex, were varied. The results showed that (a) subjects who received a message that similar others became highly aroused reported a significantly higher level of arousal than subjects who received the opposite message; (b) male subjects reported a significantly higher level of sexual arousal than females; and (c) a normative message from a male reference group had a stronger impact on both male and female subjects than one from the female reference group, indicating that males are perceived as more credible “experts” on matters of sexual responding man females. The study suggests one means by which individuals learn to respond to sexually explicit materials.