Understanding the Cognitive and Motivational Underpinnings of Sexual Passion From a Dualistic Model

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Abstract

Sexual passion has always been conceptualized as a one-dimensional phenomenon that emerges from interactions with partners. Drawing from the literature on passionate activities, sexual passion was defined in terms of its intrapersonal motivational and cognitive components and examined from a dualistic perspective. More specifically, in 5 studies, we investigated how 2 types of sexual passion, harmonious and obsessive, can lead to clearly distinct subjective, relational, and cognitive outcomes. Study 1 validated a scale measuring harmonious and obsessive sexual passion, and showed that each type of sexual passion leads to common, but also distinct, subjective consequences during sexual activity engagement for both singles and romantically engaged individuals. Studies 2 and 3 differentiated the constructs of harmonious and obsessive sexual passion from competing constructs existing in the literature and provided evidence for its predictive validity regarding various relational outcomes, including relationship sustainability over time. Finally, Studies 4 and 5 investigated the cognitive consequences of each type of sexual passion by showing how they reflect distinct levels of integration of sexual and relational representations, and how they can lead to biased processing of sexual information (Study 4) and conflict with ongoing sex-unrelated goals (Studies 5a and 5b). Overall, the present series of studies provides a new look at sexual passion from a motivational and cognitive intrapersonal perspective that is not restricted to interpersonal ramifications with partners.

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