A Psychological Approach to Human Sexuality: The Sexual Behavior Sequence
William A. Fisher
University of Western Ontario
This chapter discusses a psychological approach to human sexuality. In principle, psychological approaches could focus on clinical issues (e.g., LoPiccolo, 1977), physiological bases (e.g., Davidson, 1980), or developmental (e.g., Freud, 1959), personality (e.g., Fisher, Byrne, White, & Kelley, 1984), or social (e.g., Byrne, 1977a) psychological analyses of human sexuality, among other possible perspectives. What follows is an attempt to identify some generally relevant issues from among this diversity in order to form the basis of a psychological approach (but certainly not the psychological approach) to human sexuality.
As psychologists, we are concerned with understanding the causes of an individual's sexual behavior: What are the relevant external stimuli and internal mediating processes that determine an individual's sexual output? The present psychological approach is conceptualized as merely one part of a macro- to micro-level analysis of human sexual behavior (toward the micro end of this analysis), and as such should complement rather than compete with the evolutionary, anthropological, and sociological perspectives discussed elsewhere in this volume. In particular, it is likely that many of the effects of evolution and culture work through an individual's mind to affect his or her sexual behavior. The psychological approach tries to understand the way in which these and other external influences may affect an individual's internal processes and result in distinctive patterns of sexual behavior.
In this discussion, the focus is on an individual's arousal, affective, and cognitive processes because they appear to be the key mediators of human behavior, sexual or otherwise (see, for example, Byrne, 1971; Clark & Fiske,