Archives of Sexual Behavior

, Volume 46, Issue 8, pp 2213–2229 | Cite as

Situating Human Sexual Conditioning

  • Heather HoffmannEmail author
Invited Essay


Conditioning is often thought of as a basic, automatic learning process that has limited applicability to higher-level human behavior. In addition, conditioning is seen as separable from, and even secondary to, “innate” processes. These ideas involve some misconceptions. The aim of this article is to provide a clearer, more refined sense of human sexual conditioning. After providing some background information and reviewing what is known from laboratory conditioning studies, human sexual conditioning is compared to sexual conditioning in nonhumans, to “innate” sexual responding, and to other types of human learning processes. Recommendations for moving forward in human sexual conditioning research are included.


Human classical conditioning Sexual preferences Partner preference Learning Sexual orientation 



The author wishes to acknowledge Adam Safron and Erick Janssen for their assistance in idea development and Adam Safron and Ryan Hitchings of their helpful comments on the essay.

Compliance with Ethical Standards

Conflict of interest

The author declares that she has no conflict of interests.


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© Springer Science+Business Media, LLC 2017

Authors and Affiliations

  1. 1.Department of PsychologyKnox CollegeGalesburgUSA

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