What to Expect from Sex? Contamination and Harm relevant UCS-Expectancy Bias in Individuals with High and Low Sexual Complaints.
Sexual dysfunctions are often characterized by high levels of pain and fear. Yet, other emotions may be involved in sexual dysfunctions as well, such as disgust (cf., de Jong, van Overveld & Borg, 2013). While pain and fear-related appraisals are relevant factors in various psychopathological complaints, investigations on disgust-related cognitive biases are scarce, particularly in the context of sexual dysfunctions. Therefore, the present study examined whether sexual stimuli were associated with UCS expectancies (i.e., the tendency to over-estimate the occurrence of a specific situation with a particular outcome) for disgust-related and harm-related outcomes, and whether these UCS-expectancies could fuel sexual dysfunctioning.
Hereto, a large sample of students (n = 283) completed a hypothetical thought experiment which assessed UCS-expectancies, trait disgust and sexual functioning. Based on individual scores, a high (n = 89) and low sexual problem group (n = 81) were comprised. Overall, all participants associated sexual stimuli with disgust-related UCS expectancies. Yet, while both groups did not differ significantly in expectations of harm- and disgust-related outcomes for sexual stimuli, harm-related UCS expectancies were the single best predictor of the presence of sexual complaints. Yet, the high sexual problems group did demonstrate significantly higher levels of disgust sensitivity compared to the low sexual problems group, indicating that participants with high sexual problems evaluate disgust as a highly negative experience. Future research should investigate whether such relatively negative disgust appraisals are involved in the genesis and maintenance of sexual dysfunctioning.