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July 1973

Cognitive Response to Erotic and Stressful Films

Author Affiliations

San Francisco
From the Department of Psychiatry, Mount Zion Hospital and Medical Center, San Francisco. Dr. Horowitz is currently with the Department of Psychiatry, University of California, San Francisco; Ms Becker is now with the Department of Psychology, University of Chicago.

Arch Gen Psychiatry. 1973;29(1):81-84. doi:10.1001/archpsyc.1973.04200010058010

In previous studies exposing persons to stressful films, uniformly unpleasant in content, we found a marked tendency toward intrusive and stimulus-repetitive thought. This study was designed to determine if pleasant but arousing films would produce similar effects. In a counterbalanced design, 29 subjects saw both pleasurable and displeasurable films on genital themes. Comparing the results with previous data on the effects of the same displeasurable film and a neutral contrast film, both arousing films were followed by higher levels of intrusive and stimulus-repetitive thought than followed the neutral film. Viewers of the pleasurable and displeasurable films differed significantly in affective responses. The results support the theory of a general tendency towards compulsive repetition of events that arouse strong emotions and ideas of whatever quality.

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