Time will tell: Temporal processing in the sexual behavior system

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This paper describes several temporal factors that appear to play a role in sexual conditioning including the conditioned stimulus (CS)-unconditioned stimulus (US) interval, the C/T ratio, and trace conditioning. One commonality among these studies is the attention given to the stimuli and responses involved. This is contrary to traditional learning theories such as the general process theory. The general process theory is focused on identifying universal principles and commonalities of learning, without regard to the stimuli and responses involved. The research described in this paper has taken a different approach and made specific considerations of the stimuli and responses such as with the type of conditioned stimuli used and the use of more than one, and sometimes multiple, response measures with which to identify conditioned responding. The findings of these studies are best accounted for by the behavior systems approach. For example, one of the main findings is that during long-delay learning, a new conditioned response may emerge (increased locomotor activity) in lieu of a decrease or absence of the target conditioned response (approach behavior). The behavior systems approach accounts for this by describing the sexual behavior system as being on a continuum from consummatory behavior to focal search and general search. The nature of the conditioned response depends on where the CS is introduced along the continuum. This example and several other sexual conditioning experiments are described within this paper with an emphasis on their interpretation from a behavior systems perspective.

Original languageEnglish
JournalLearning and Behavior
StatePublished - Sep 2022

Bibliographical note

Publisher Copyright:
© 2022, The Psychonomic Society, Inc.


  • Behavior systems approach
  • General process theory
  • Sexual conditioning
  • Temporal processing

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Experimental and Cognitive Psychology
  • Cognitive Neuroscience
  • Behavioral Neuroscience


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