Conditioning of Sexual Interests and Paraphilias in Humans Is Difficult to See, Virtually Impossible to Test, and Probably Exactly How It Happens: A Comment on Hsu and Bailey (2020)


While reading Hsu and Bailey’s (2020) reply to Grey (2020) about the role of conditioning explanations for sexual interests, two old aphorisms came to mind: “Absence of evidence is not evidence of absence” (e.g., Martin, 2007) and “Don’t throw the baby out with the bathwater” (Murner, 1512, cited in Kirkpatrick, 1999). Of course, one reason we keep hammering away at difcult phenomena is to fnally stumble across that fateful hypothesis that can be falsifed but isn’t, no matter how hard we try (Platt, 1964). And the etiology of human sexual interests is one particularly difcult set of phenomena to test. Aiming diferent hypotheses at those phenomena, especially from diferent levels of analysis, is likely to help bring cause and efect into clearer focus. Conditioning explanations, far from being poverty stricken (as Hsu and Bailey suggest), are actually quite rich in hypotheses to test.

Archives of Sexual Behavior
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