Date of Award


Degree Type


Degree Name

Doctor of Philosophy


Engaging in erotic fantasy is known to increase sexual desire and arousal. Clinicians routinely recommend fantasy as a treatment for desire and arousal dysfunctions but the effectiveness of such suggestions has never been tested. The first study compared fantasy training, simple encouragement to fantasize, and a distraction task on women's use of fantasy and arousal in the lab. Both fantasy interventions moderately increased use of fantasy while the distraction task somewhat lowered fantasy use although neither intervention group differed significantly from controls. Individual differences in use of fantasy outside the lab had little impact on fantasy use in this session, but in a subsequent session where no interventions were given a significant positive correlation was found between level of fantasy use in the natural environment and self-reported use of fantasy in the lab. There was some evidence that fantasy suggestions may have a greater impact on individuals who already use more fantasy in the natural environment. These results suggest that instructions to fantasize may have a limited impact on actual use of fantasy and questions the utility of our clinical suggestions.;In the second study a two dimensional measure of individual differences in sexual fantasy use was developed and validated. Compensatory (use of fantasy following negative feeling states) and enhancement (following positive feeling states) functions of sexual fantasy have been debated in the literature but accurate measurement and understanding of these functions of fantasy has not yet been achieved. Factor analysis revealed a distinct clustering of items into these two dimensions. High enhancement scores were found to relate to a generally positive daydreaming style, being more erotophilic, having more current sexual activity with a partner, feeling more satisfied with current sexual experiences and one's own sexual responses, more positive feelings towards fantasy, finding fantasies more arousing, and to fewer sexual problems for men and a higher rate of orgasm in women, than high compensation scores. Excellent test-retest reliability was found over a two week period. Convergent validity was found for high enhancement scores relating to greater use of sexual fantasy following positive feeling states.



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