Does sex lead us to love?

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The studies reported here provide, for the first time, experimental evidence to support the claim that sexual interest and arousal are associated with motives to form and maintain a close relationship. In five studies, sex-related representations were cognitively primed, either subliminally or supraliminally, by exposing participants to erotic words or pictures as compared with neutral words or pictures. The effects of “sexual priming” on the tendencies to initiate and maintain a close relationship were assessed using various cognitive–behavioral and self-report measures. Supporting the hypotheses, subliminal but not supraliminal exposure to sexual primes increased (a) willingness to self-disclose, (b) accessibility of intimacy-related thoughts, (c) willingness to sacrifice for one’s partner, and (d) preference for using positive conflict-resolution strategies. The article discusses implications of these findings for the role of sex in close relationships and offers a conceptualization of possible relational motives of the sexual behavioral system.

Source: “When Sex Primes Love: Subliminal Sexual Priming Motivates Relationship Goal Pursuit” from Personality and Social Psychology Bulletin

Noted biological anthropologist Helen Fisher has made the controversial statement “casual sex doesn’t exist.” Her TED talk is here. Her book is Why We Love: The Nature and Chemistry of Romantic Love.

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