Saturday, November 16, 2019

Kyoko interjects, “Isn’t life disappointing?” Noriko smiles back at her. “Yes,” she nods. “Nothing but disappointment.”

Pain in Japanese Cinema. Abe Callard. Garden of Forking Paths Blog, November 12, 2019.


A strange moment is buried near the end of Yasujirō Ozu’s Tokyo Story. Two sister-in-laws, Kyoko and Noriko, are chatting and airing their grievances when Kyoko interjects, “Isn’t life disappointing?”

Noriko smiles back at her. “Yes,” she nods. “Nothing but disappointment.”

“Well I should get going,” says Kyoko.

“Goodbye, then,” responds Noriko. They smile at each other and leave.

You might find this an oddly quotidian treatment of existential tragedy – but that oddness is precisely what defines the work of Yasujirō Ozu.

Ozu is the secret maestro of Japanese cinema; hiding from the public eye, his legend as one of the great humanists of the 20th century is kept alive by critics and film school students. One explanation of this is that Ozu’s films are Buddhist at heart. Though mainstream western culture can easily digest the bushido code, with its emphasis on honor and revenge, the mystic passivity of Buddhism is far more alien to us.

The best example of Ozu’s Buddhist ideology is found in his interpretation of pain. Earlier in the same conversation between Noriko and Kyoko, Kyoko is angrily deriding their siblings’ treatment of the elderly grandparents. “I felt sorry for poor mother,” she says. “Even strangers would have been more considerate!”

When I first watched the film, I was on Kyoko’s side. I saw it as a morality play – essentially about how we should treat our parents better. It was unusually subtle for a morality play, but ultimately didactic nonetheless. One YouTube comment on Tokyo Story proves that others feel the same way: “Great movie it makes me want to bee a better son, and to never have children!”

On my second and third viewings, however, I began to understand that the real revelation of this scene is the line that comes next. Noriko responds, “Look, Kyoko, I thought so too when I was your age. But as children get older, they drift away from their parents.”

The film is full of these oblique statements that seem to pardon the childrens’ unkind behavior.

“Children never live up to their parents’ expectations. Let’s just be happy that they’re better than most.”

“They’re certainly better than average. We’re fortunate.”

“I think so, too.”

“We should consider ourselves lucky.”

“Yes, we are very lucky.”

At first glance, I perceived these as truisms, put in the mouths of the characters to conceal their real anger and sadness at their children. But I began to realize that, quite the opposite, they are the central idea of the film.

The Buddha allegedly stated, “Pain in life is inevitable but suffering is not. Pain is what the world does to you, suffering is what you do to yourself.”

Through Ozu’s lens, there are two reactions to pain; acceptance and suffering. The wise person lets pain occur, even feels it, but does not turn it into moral judgment. As Lawrence of Arabia says, “The trick is not minding that it hurts.” The unwise person, conversely, obsesses over pain, places it under headings like “wrong” and “evil”. These moral categorizations themselves create a new form of pain, which the Buddha labels suffering. Suffering is unnecessary and pointless; it is, at its heart, a vain attempt to eradicate the first kind of pain.

It is hard, if not impossible, for me to put myself in this mindset. When I try to weigh its merits, questions arise: If we feel pain, do we not suffer? Isn’t pain bad? Why shouldn’t we morally judge bad people?

Perhaps it is my Western upbringing, or perhaps I’m just wired that way. But even a surface-level understanding of Ozu’s perspective on pain has given me insight into his other works. Late Spring is not about the evils of societal norms, and The Only Son is not about the tragedy of the education system – they are simply presentations of pain, like a chef serving the bitter along with the sweet.

This deeply Eastern philosophy caused Japanese film exporters to view Ozu’s films as unmarketable to a Western audience; Tokyo Story was not known among European and American film critics until the 60s and 70s.

Ozu’s Buddhist portrayal of pain stands in stark contrast to the other looming titan of Japanese cinema, Akira Kurosawa. Kurosawa was often accused by critics of being “too Western”, and although it is perplexing to assign normativity to this, it’s true that Kurosawa’s films basically operate under a Western value system. Having grown up watching John Ford films, he saw the world in terms of cowboys and bandits.


Ozu, on the other hand, made films that present pain in a commonplace manner. He is known for “pillow shots” – shots of empty alleys, piles of magazines and vases of flowers that are interspersed between the scenes of his films. He is fascinated with objects because they exist regardless of human pain. They represent the eye of the world, looking placidly at us as we come into existence, suffer, and die. They represent peace, tranquility –  nothingness. Uncoincidentally, “nothingness” is the single word inscribed on Ozu’s gravestone.

At the end of Tokyo Story, the grandfather returns home to southwest Japan, alone for the first time since the death of his wife. He sits cross-legged on a tatami mat, fanning himself. A neighbor stops by his window, and they chat about life.

“Living alone,” he says, “I think the days will seem very long.”

“Absolutely. You’ll feel lonely,” she says, smiling cheerfully. They bow and she walks away.

He lets out a calm sigh, listening to the put-put of the boats in the harbor.

Supposedly, high levels of sexual arousal can promote sexual willingness and approach tendencies toward a priori low attractive mates; these authors did not see such lowering of standards

The Influence of Sexual Arousal on Self-Reported Sexual Willingness and Automatic Approach to Models of Low, Medium, and High Prior Attractiveness. Charmaine Borg,Aleksandra Pawłowska,Robin van Stokkum,Janniko R. Georgiadis &Peter J. de Jong. The Journal of Sex Research, Nov 15 2019.

ABSTRACT: Anecdotal evidence suggests that sexual attraction is flexible, and that high levels of sexual arousal can promote sexual willingness and approach tendencies toward a priori low attractive mates. This experimental study tested whether heightened sexual arousal can lower the threshold for sexual willingness and automatic approach tendencies toward potential sex partners of low and medium attractiveness. Heterosexual male (n =54) and female (n =61) participants were randomly assigned to a sexual arousal or control condition. Approach tendencies were indexed using a reaction time task. Sexual willingness was indexed using participant ratings of willingness to kiss and to consider having sex with same- and other-sex models of low, medium, and high attractiveness. Overall, participants showed stronger approach to models of high and medium than of low attractiveness. Sexual arousal weakened this differential responding but did not result in a robust increase of approach toward less attractive other-sex or same-sex models. Sexual willingness toward less attractive models was not affected by sexual arousal. Independent of condition, women reported greater sexual willingness toward same-sex models. The current pattern of findings does not support the notion that sexual arousal promotes automatic approach and sexual willingness to a broader array of sex partners.


The main purpose of this study was to investigate possible factors
that may promote the increase in breadth of sexual responding. In
order to examine the influence of sexual abstinence on breadth of
sexual responding, we attempted to manipulate the amount of
sexual activity in a selected group of participants. However, since
a substantial proportion of those participants did not manage to
abstain from sexual activity during the assigned period of time, the
effects of sexual abstinence could not be adequately tested. Thus, in
the current study, we tested whether sexual arousal would promote
automatic (reflexive/impulsive) approach tendencies toward pictures of men and women in provocative poses as well as individuals’ self-reported (reflective) willingness to kiss or have sex with these pictured men and women. In addition, we tested whether
such impact would generalize to less attractive stimuli and/or to
same-sex stimuli, and whether the pattern of automatic approach
tendencies and sexual willingness would differ between men and women.

The main findings can be summarized as follows: (i) Overall,
automatic approach tendencies and sexual willingness were
greater for stimuli of medium and high attractiveness than toward
stimuli of low attractiveness; (ii) This differential pattern of automatic approach as a function of stimulus attractiveness was attenuated by sexual arousal manipulation; (iii) There was no robust
evidence to suggest that sexual arousal increased automatic
approach tendencies to models of low attractiveness or same-sex
models; (iv) Moreover, self-reported willingness to kiss and to
consider having sex with the models was higher for models of
high attractiveness and did not seem to be influenced by the sexual
arousal manipulation; (v) Women reported higher sexual willingness to same-sex models than men, and showed stronger variability in reported willingness to kiss and to consider having
sex as a function of stimulus attractiveness than men.

Sexual Arousal Effects

Consistent with previous research showing increased automatic approach to positively valenced stimuli (e.g., Chen & Bargh, 1999; Krieglmeyer, Deutsch, De Houwer, & de Raedt,
2010), participants in the current study generally showed
stronger automatic approach toward relatively attractive stimuli. This differential pattern was slightly attenuated by sexual arousal manipulation. Specifically, approach behavior
toward other-sex stimuli of low and high attractiveness was
more similar among sexually aroused participants than among
control participants, suggesting that induced sexual arousal
increased automatic approach tendencies toward stimuli of
low attractiveness and decreased these approach tendencies
toward stimuli of high attractiveness. This effect is somewhat
consistent with our hypotheses. However, considering its
small effect size (ηp2 = 0.03), as well as lack of a clear-cut
main effect of sexual arousal manipulation, it remains to be
tested whether this represents a robust finding.
Moreover, sexual arousal manipulation did not affect either
of the sexual willingness measures. That is, against our
hypotheses, sexual arousal manipulation did not result in
a general increase in willingness to kiss or to consider having
sex with other- and same-sex stimuli, nor in a specific
increase toward same-sex stimuli or toward stimuli of low and
medium attractiveness. Thus, it seems that under laboratory
conditions, sexual arousal induced by means of erotic videos
was ineffective in amplifying the attractiveness of less physically attractive stimuli or same-sex stimuli to a degree that would increase automatic approach tendencies and selfreported sexual willingness related to the models depicted in
these stimuli. Previous research using self-stimulation at
home (Ariely & Loewenstein, 2006), or erotic audio narratives
(Imhoff & Schmidt, 2014) and pornographic film clips
(Skakoon-Sparling et al., 2016) in the lab to increase sexual
arousal, provided evidence that heightened sexual arousal
increased self-reported willingness to engage in uncommon
or risky sexual activities. The current findings indicate that
the impact of sexual arousal does not generally extend to
lowering the threshold for the automatic approach and sexual
willingness toward individuals of low a priori attractiveness.
Despite the fact that there was more potential for an increase
in willingness to have sex with less attractive same-sex stimuli,
especially in men, no such effect was observed. Therefore, the
current findings provide no support for the view that the state
of sexual arousal promotes widening of the array of sexual
stimuli that participants are sexually attracted to by strengthening the motivation to satisfy one’s sexual needs (Ariely & Loewenstein, 2006; Imhoff & Schmidt, 2014; Kringelbach &
Rolls, 2004).

Gender Effects

In line with our predictions, female participants were found to
be more willing to kiss and to consider having sex with
female, rather than male, stimuli of medium attractiveness.
Female participants were equally willing to kiss and to consider having sex with male and female stimuli of low attractiveness. In contrast, male participants were consistently more
willing to kiss female than male stimuli across all attractiveness levels. Thus, in agreement with previous theoretical and empirical works (Baumeister, 2000; Diamond, 2008; SavinWilliams & Ream, 2007), as well as our predictions, female
participants were characterized by a greater breadth of subjective sexual responding than male participants, as indicated by their equal willingness to kiss and to consider having sex
with both male and female models of low and medium attractiveness. In contrast, the breadth of subjective sexual responding of male participants was generally small, in the sense that
men were uniformly more willing to kiss and to consider
having sex with female rather than with male models, regardless of their attractiveness. No generally accepted explanation
exists for the observed sex differences, with researchers proposing that various evolutionary and sociocultural influences may be at play (e.g., Baumeister, 2004; Buss & Schmitt, 1993;
Simpson & Gangestad, 1992). Regarding sociocultural influences, some point to the fact that there is generally a greater social acceptance toward non-heterosexual expression of
female than male sexuality (e.g., Herek, 2002). Thus, perhaps
the observed gender effects reflect the fact that same-sex
sexual behavior among women is viewed as more socially
acceptable than the same behavioral expression among men.
It is also noteworthy that female participants showed no
differential preference for male and female stimuli of low
attractiveness but seemed to prefer female stimuli of medium
attractiveness over male stimuli of the same attractiveness,
while expressing preference for male stimuli of high attractiveness over female stimuli of high attractiveness. A positive sexual response can generally be expected to occur in response
to the preferred (gendered) stimuli. Yet, sexual orientation
can be comprised of multiple dimensions e.g., sexual activity
preference, age, nurturance, etc. (Chivers & Brotto, 2017).
Thus, it could be that the highly attractive stimuli were
appraised differently than those of medium and low attractiveness on one or more of those dimensions, increasing the salience of gendered preference for sexual stimuli. To arrive at
firmer conclusions concerning the nature of response specificity in men and women, more research into sociocultural gender roles, as well as the cognitive and affective systems
governing the processing of sexual stimuli, is needed.
Men and women showed some differences with regard to
their pattern of automatic approach behaviors toward sexual
stimuli of low, medium, and high attractiveness. This differential pattern seemed to be mainly driven by a relatively strong inclination of women to avoid stimuli of low attractiveness. Low value mates, such as those depicted in the stimuli of low attractiveness, can induce feelings of (sexual)
disgust (Tybur et al., 2009), an emotion associated with strong
avoidance tendencies (Tybur, Lieberman, Kurzban, &
DeScioli, 2013). Women tend to be more prone and sensitive
to disgust experiences than men (Grauvogl et al., 2015; Haidt,
McCauley, & Rozin, 1994), and thus, the behavioral avoidance
away from the sexual stimuli of low attractiveness observed
among women might have been driven by sex differences in
disgust sensitivity.

Humor could be the feeling of Rapid Anxiety Reduction, with strong correspondencies to False Alarm Theory, Benign Violation Theory, and Cognitive Debugging Theory

Rapid Anxiety Reduction (RAR): A unified theory of humor. Adam Safron. arXiv, Nov 8 2019.

Abstract: Here I propose a novel theory in which humor is the feeling of Rapid Anxiety Reduction (RAR). According to RAR, humor can be expressed in a simple formula: -d(A)/dt. RAR has strong correspondences with False Alarm Theory, Benign Violation Theory, and Cognitive Debugging Theory, all of which represent either special cases or partial descriptions at alternative levels of analysis. Some evidence for RAR includes physiological similarities between hyperventilation and laughter and the fact that smiles often indicate negative affect in non-human primates (e.g. fear grimaces where teeth are exposed as a kind of inhibited threat display). In accordance with Benign Violation Theory, if humor reliably indicates both a) anxiety induction, b) anxiety reduction, and c) the time-course over which anxiety is reduced, then the intersection of these conditions productively constrains inference spaces over latent mental states with respect to the values and capacities of the persons experiencing humor. In this way, humor is a powerful cypher for understanding persons in both individual and social contexts, with far-reaching implications. Finally, if humor can be expressed in such a simple formula with clear ties to phenomenology, and yet this discovery regarding such an essential part of the human experience has remained undiscovered for this long, then this is an extremely surprising state of affairs worthy of further investigation. Towards this end, I propose an analogy can be found with consciousness studies, where in addition to the "Hard problem" of trying to explain humor, we would do well to consider a "Meta-Problem" of why humor seems so difficult to explain, and why relatively simple explanations may have eluded us for this long. (Please note: RAR was conceived in 2008, and last majorly updated in 2012.)

There seems to be an optimal level of humility, such that those participants who somewhat underestimated their morality with respect to their peers were liked and respected the most

Shared Reality or Shared Illusions? Evaluating Moral Impressions. Maxwell Barranti. PhD Thesis, Psychology Dept, Toronto U, 2019.

Abstract: Moral impressions are some of the most consequential opinions people have about themselves and others. Morality is at the core of identity (Strohminger & Nichols, 2014), and drives many interpersonal interactions such as cooperation (Delgado, Frank, & Phelps, 2005) and affiliation (Bukowski & Sippola, 1998). Yet, little is known about the extent to which these moral impressions are grounded in reality or if they are only held as idiosyncratic impressions. The current investigation evaluated how people see their own and other’s moral character, if these moral impressions are shared, and if a shared understanding of moral character is adaptive. First, I developed and tested a measurement model for assessing self- and other-impressions of morality which removes a global evaluative bias from moral impressions (Studies 1 and 2). Second, I evaluated if self- and other-impressions are grounded in a shared social reality (i.e. self-other agreement and inter-judge consensus) and/or grounded in observable behavior (Study 3). Third, I evaluated if sharing a social reality for moral impressions has interpersonal consequences for the self (Study 4). This work sheds light on the extent to which morality is in the eye of the beholder and the adaptiveness of holding shared moral impressions. Additionally, this work has implications for the assessment of moral character and the adaptiveness of self-knowledge.

1 Importance of moral impressions

1.1 Self-impressions

The beliefs we hold about our own moral character – moral self-impressions – are among the most important beliefs we hold about ourselves (Wojciszke, 2005). Indeed, people’s beliefs about their own morality lie at the heart of their identity (Heiphetz, Strohminger, & Young, 2017). For example, changing aspects of our moral selves is viewed as fundamentally changing a person, more so than non-moral aspects (Strohminger & Nichols, 2014). When people are asked about what traits comprise the ideal person, moral traits are the defining features of an ideal person (Cottrell, Neuberg, & Li, 2007). Even after death, loved ones emphasize the morality of the recently deceased (Goodwin, Piazza, & Rozin, 2014). People value a moral self-image (Jordan & Mullen, 2011; Monin & Jordan, 2009) and have a strong desire to see themselves as moral (Mazar, Amir, & Ariely, 2008). Given how much people care about their own morality it stands to reason that holding moral self-perceptions may be a fundamental psychological need (Prentice, Jayawickreme, Hawkins, Hartley, Furr, & Fleeson, 2018). Taken together, this suggests that moral self-perceptions are an important part of people’s lives.

1.2 Other-impressions

It isn’t just our own morality that people care deeply about. People also care deeply about the morality of others (Pizarro, & Tannenbaum, 2012). This is evidenced by the amount of time and effort people put into seeking and sharing information about the moral character of others. People preferentially seek out morally relevant information more so than non-moral information when forming an impression of others (Brambilla, Rusconi, Sacchi, & Cherubini, 2011; Wojciszke, Bazinska, & Jaworski, 1998). Further, and they regularly share information about the moral character of people they know. For example, people regularly gossip about morality (Feinberg, Willer, Stellar, & Keltner, 2012; Peters & Kashima 2015). A conservative estimate is that on any given day there is about a 15% chance to learn about moral acts of others (Hofmann, Wisneski, Brandt, & Skitka, 2014). In essence, people exert effort into learning the morality of others.

Part of why people try to understand the other’s morality is because they believe it is useful information for guiding important interpersonal decisions. Perhaps unsurprisingly, people use their impressions about other’s moral character to inform a wide variety of decisions. As such, moral impressions carry consequence. Moral character impressions affect who people like and trust (Goodwin et al., 2014). Friendships and relationships are sought and ended based on moral judgments (Van’t Wout & Sanfey, 2008). Decisions about whom to trust with valuable resources (e.g. money) are informed by moral character judgments (e.g. money; De Bruin & Van Lange, 1999; Delgado, Frank, & Phelps, 2005). People avoid working with people who are uncooperative. For example, people prefer to work with other’s when they have seen them make large contributions to a public good (Rockenbach & Milinski, 2011). Leaders are elected based on constituent impressions of their morality. For example, voters prefer candidates that appear trustworthy (Chen, Jing, & Lee, 2014). All of this evidence suggests that being seen as a moral person has positive interpersonal consequences.

In essence, people care deeply about their own morality and exert lots of effort to understand the moral character of others. The well documented dominance of moral impressions in our social lives has driven scholars to regard morality as a fundamental dimension of person perception (Brambilla & Leach, 2014, Goodwin et al., 2014; Wojciszke, 2005). And yet, despite the importance of moral impressions in our lives and its fundamental role in person perception, current work has not adequately addressed several fundamental questions about moral character impressions. Are our moral impressions grounded in reality? Is holding realistic moral impressions adaptive? To address these fundamental questions, it is important to understand the process by which accurate moral impressions form and the challenges that stand in the way of forming accurate moral impressions.

4 In lab and daily behaviors

Despite evidence of convergence between self- and other-impressions of morality, there was little evidence that self-impressions were related to moral behaviors. Self-impressions were not associated with in-lab cooperation behavior nor with daily reports from participants about their own behavior. There was some evidence that other-impressions are related to moral behavior. Specifically, other-impressions were related to in-lab cooperation behaviors in the public goods game. However, there was no relationship between other-impressions and daily reports of moral behavior.

If my measures of behaviors are taken as a valid criterion of accuracy, then these results suggest that people are somewhat accurate about the morality of others. But that people are inaccurate about their own morality. This is mostly in line with SOKA model predictions that the evaluative nature of a moral impression prevents selves from holding accurate impressions and the somewhat internal nature of morality makes it difficult for other’s to form an accurate moral impression. And in general these results are in line with some recent work that suggest that impressions are not tethered to acoustical recordings of behaviors for either agreeableness (Beer & Vazire, 2017) or moral impressions (Bollich, 2016).

5 Is sharing reality adaptive?

Using polynomial regression and response surface analysis, I found that those participants that share a social reality did not experience the most social value. Instead, there was an optimal level of humility, such that those participants who somewhat underestimated their morality with respect to their peers were liked and respected the most. There seems to be a balancing act between the benefits of sharing a social reality and being somewhat humble with respect to peers. The result of this balance is that some, but not too much humility was associated with highest levels of social value.

Although the general pattern for moral impression suggested the optimal approach for participants was to be humble with respect to their peers, this was not the case for the domain of fairness. Instead, peer’s impression of fairness was positively related to social value, regardless of how people saw themselves. This suggests that there are no benefits of humility, nor costs to enhancement in the domain of fairness. Though some caution should be used when interpreting domain specific effects, as little systematic domain variance was detected in studies 1 & 2.

Nonconsensual somnophilia: Seems driven by an underlying interest in “passivity, power, and the elimination, in degrees, of the possibility of rejection,” not an overt interest in sexual aggression

Somnophilia: Examining Its Various Forms and Associated Constructs. Elizabeth T. Deehan, Ross M. Bartels. Sexual Abuse, November 15, 2019.

Abstract: Somnophilia refers to the interest in having sex with a sleeping person. Using an online sample of 437 participants, the present study provides the first empirical examination of somnophilia, its various forms, and theorized correlates. Participants completed the newly developed Somnophilia Interest and Proclivity Scale, which comprises three subscales (active consensual, passive consensual, and active nonconsensual somnophilia). To test hypotheses about the convergent and divergent validity of different paraphilic interests, participants also completed scales measuring necrophilic, rape-related, and sadistic/masochistic sexual fantasies, rape proclivity, and the need for sexual dominance/submission. Male participants scored higher than females on all scales except the passive subscale. For both males and females, each subscale was associated most strongly with conceptually congruent variables. These results support existing theoretical assumptions about somnophilia, as well as offering newer insights, such as distinguishing between active and passive somnophilia. Limitations and implications for further research are discussed.

Keywords somnophilia, necrophilia, paraphilia, biastophilia, sexual fantasy, dormaphilia

How Common Is Somnophilia?

Somnophilia has been termed a rare paraphilia (Lauerma, 2016). Yet, to the authors’ knowledge, no empirical studies have directly examined the prevalence of somnophilia per se in either community or forensic populations. A study by Joyal et al. (2015) did, however, provide some insight. Using an online sample of 1,516 community adults (799 females; 717 males), they examined the prevalence of 55 different sexual fantasies. Fantasies about “sexually abusing a person who is drunk, asleep, or unconscious” were found to be used more frequently by males than females (22.6% vs. 10.8%, respectively). As Joyal et al. (2015) note, the prevalence of these sexual fantasies in women was statistically unusual (<16%), which was not the case for men. It should be highlighted, however, that the fantasy item was framed in offending terms (i.e., “abusing a person who is drunk, asleep, or unconscious”). Had it been framed in neutral or consensual terms, the results may have been different. Moreover, the fantasy item was not specific to sleep, but instead included two other passive states (i.e., drunk and unconscious). Thus, the specific rate of somnophilic fantasies (involving just a sleeping person) cannot be accurately established, as any participants with sexual fantasies about sex with a drunk person, for example, would have also responded to this item.


In this study, we assessed participants’ interest and proclivity to engage in active somnophilia (i.e., having sex with a sleeping person), in both consensual and nonconsensual contexts, as well as consensual passive somnophilia (i.e., being the recipient of sexual activity while asleep). This was achieved using a newly developed measure termed the SIPS, which showed convergence with corresponding sleep-related sexual fantasies. The SIPS data were then used to test the main theorized assumptions about somnophilia present within the literature. These included whether each aspect of somnophilia is associated with (a) necrophilic fantasies, (b) rape-related variables (i.e., biastophilic fantasies and fantasies of being raped, as well as rape proclivity in males), and (c) sexually sadistic/masochistic fantasies and the need for sexual dominance/ submission.

Males were found to have higher scores than females on all SIPS subscales, except for the passive subscale. This extends upon Joyal et al.’s (2015) finding, as the present gender difference was focused more specifically on somnophilia (i.e., being asleep) and included consensual somnophilic acts (not just abusive/nonconsensual behaviors).  Given these results, male and female participants were subsequently analyzed separately. For both males and females, correlation and regression analyses showed that active somnophilic fantasies were most strongly associated with both active somnophilic subscales, while passive somnophilic fantasies were most strongly associated with the passive subscale. These results provide convergent and construct validity for the SIPS, along with the factor analysis results.

The findings also provided some support for the link between somnophilia and necrophilia (Calef & Weinshel, 1972; Fedoroff et al., 1997; Peck, 2006; Pettigrew, 2017). That is, necrophilic fantasies were associated with the nonconsensual SIPS subscale in male participants. However, necrophilic fantasies did not remain significant for the active SIPS subscales after the first stage of the hierarchical regression.  Future research could look to see whether necrophilic fantasies play a mediating role in the link between somnophilic fantasies and somnophilic proclivity. Also, given that the lack of consent potentially plays a role, future research could examine whether the link between necrophilia and nonconsensual somnophilia is driven by having a sexual interest in passive targets (Pettigrew, 2017, 2019b).

The results also revealed that nonconsensual active somnophilia (and consensual active somnophilia to a lesser degree) is associated with biastophilic sexual fantasies in both males and females (as well as rape proclivity in males). These results provide support for the view that somnophilia is linked to an interest in nonconsensual sex (Lauerma, 2016; Pettigrew, 2019a). However, the results of the hierarchical regression revealed that rape proclivity in males and biastophilic fantasies in females remained significant independent variables for nonconsensual active somnophilia only. Thus, while rape-related variables are correlated with each form of somnophilia, they may play a more central role in nonconsensual somnophilia. These findings suggest that it may be beneficial to distinguish between an interest in consensual and nonconsensual somnophilic behavior. Although both are primarily driven by somnophilic fantasies, having an interest and proclivity to engage in biastophilic behaviors may shape someone’s somnophilic interest so that it includes a lack of consent.

Sadistic fantasies and the need for sexual dominance were correlated positively with both forms of active somnophilia. Interestingly, however, the hierarchical regression showed that using sadistic fantasies less frequently was a significant independent variable of nonconsensual somnophilia in both males and females. This perhaps suggests that an interest in more aggressive sexual acts is not linked to nonconsensual somnophilia. In light of these results, it could be argued that that nonconsensual somnophilia is driven by an underlying interest in “passivity, power, and the elimination, in degrees, of the possibility of rejection” (Pettigrew, 2017, p. 353), rather than an overt interest in sexual aggression. Further research is needed to understand the role of sexual sadism in relation to somnophilia. Perhaps it functions as a mediator between somnophilic fantasies and consensual somnophilia proclivity while playing less of a role in the proclivity to engage in nonconsensual somnophilia.

As expected, passive somnophilia was associated most strongly with passive-oriented variables. For example, sexual fantasies about being the recipient of sex while asleep was the strongest correlate in both males and females. In addition, fantasies of being raped were associated with passive somnophilia, particularly in females. It is possible that those who are aroused by being the passive recipient are striving to be totally submissive to their partner (Knafo, 2015). Indeed, the need for sexual submission and the use of masochistic fantasies were both strongly correlated with the passive subscale. Also, masochistic fantasies emerged as a significant independent variable in the hierarchal regression for females. However, passive somnophilic fantasies remained the strongest independent variable in the regression analysis for both males and females. Of course, all these data are correlational and so do not imply causal relationships between the variables.


Although this study provides some important and useful insights into somnophilia, a number of limitations should be noted. First, we did not ask participants whether they actually engage in consensual somnophilic behavior. Doing so would have offered the opportunity to compare those who act upon their interest against those who do not.  Further to this, it would have been useful to have asked participants where they had seen the study posted. From our data, we were unable to isolate and quantify how many participants were collected from fetish sites and forums related to somnophilia.  This information would have helped to establish an approximate prevalence rate of somnophilia within the general population versus those recruited from somnophiliarelated sites. Moreover, the study was advertised as being about somnophilia and so the biases that come with recruiting a self-selected sample are likely present in the results. Thus, some caution is warranted when drawing conclusions from the findings.  Related to this, many of the participants in this self-selected sample are unlikely to have a sexual offending background as such individuals commonly have internet use prohibitions. Therefore, the results cannot be generalized to those who have actually engaged in paraphilic offending of this nature. However, it should be noted that such prohibitions are not universal and may not always be followed by the person with a history of sexual offending. Thus, future research is needed to gain a wider picture of somnophilic-driven offending behavior.

In addition, the consensual active and passive somnophilia subscales of the SIPS were each comprised of two scenarios, both of which involved a romantic partner. The nonconsensual subscale comprised only one scenario, which involved a nonpartner (i.e., housemate). Thus, the SIPS could be amended to include a nonconsensual scenario involving one’s romantic partner for consistency. Similarly, future researchers may want to consider investigating nonconsensual passive somnophilia by developing and using a relevant scenario. We chose not include this in the present study as it was deemed conceptually problematic (i.e., having a proclivity for being a recipient of nonconsensual somnophilic behavior). However, as some participants reported fantasies of being raped, it is possible that some individuals will also harbor an interest in (rather than a proclivity for) nonconsensual passive somnophilia—especially within a self-selected online sample.

As the SIPS is a self-report measure, it is susceptible to socially desirable responding. Future research should look to examine the SIPS’s relationship with an impression management measure, as well as its convergence with an indirect (i.e., response-latency) measure of somnophilic interest. Doing so, along with a knowngroups comparison, will aid toward validating the SIPS further. A final potential issue, as with many online studies, is that some participants may not respond plausibly, may not pay attention, and/or may respond spuriously in order to get to the end of the study.  Although the Mahalanobis Distance analysis helped identify participants who were outliers across multiple measures, this issue was not explicitly accounted for within the design of current study (e.g., adding questions that can highlight implausible responding, asking whether the participant answered truthfully, using attention checks). This is recommended for future research on this topic.

While psychological pain led to more empathic concern, physical pain led to higher ratings of personal distress

Empathic concern and personal distress depend on situational but not dispositional factors. Sarah Fabi, Lydia Anna Weber, Hartmut Leuthold. PLoS November 14, 2019.

Abstract: Empathic concern and personal distress are empathic responses that may result when observing someone in discomfort. Even though these empathic responses have received much attention in past research, it is still unclear which conditions contribute to their respective experience. Hence, the main goal of this study was to examine if dispositional empathic traits or rather situational variables are more likely to evoke empathic concern and personal distress and how the two empathic responses influence motor responses. We presented pictures of persons in psychological, physical, or no pain with matched descriptions of situations that promoted an other-focused state. Approach-avoidance movements were demanded by a subsequently presented tone. While psychological pain led to more empathic concern, physical pain led to higher ratings of personal distress. Linear mixed-effects modelling analysis further revealed that situational factors, such as the type of pain but also the affect experienced by the participants before the experiment predicted the two empathic responses, whereas dispositional empathic traits had no significant influence. In addition, the more intensely the empathic responses were experienced, the faster were movements initiated, presumably reflecting an effect of arousal. Overall, the present study advances our understanding of empathic responses to people in need and provides novel methodological tools to effectively manipulate and analyze empathic concern and personal distress in future research.