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The Role of Attention in Sexual Arousal: Implications for Treatment of Sexual Dysfunction
The literature on the role of attention in sexual arousal is reviewed, especially that which has implications for noninvasive treatment of sexual dysfunction. Findings suggest that voluntary control of sexual arousal can be achieved through attentional focus on nonsexual cognitions or sexual fantasy. Cognitive biases may direct attention and thus facilitate or impede sexual arousal. Sexual arousal may be influenced by directed attentional focus, and preliminary evidence suggests that mindfulness techniques may result in longer-term changes in attentional focus; these changes, in turn, may improve sexual response. Information-processing models of sexual arousal developed in light of such findings are discussed. This research establishes the central role of attentional processes in facilitating physiological and, especially, subjective sexual arousal. Implementing approaches that capitalize on attentional processes could advance noninvasive treatment of sexual dysfunction. Future avenues of research might investigate how play, mammalian play circuits, and flow states are relevant to sexual response and satisfaction.