Misattribution of Arousal

Misattribution of Arousal is the process where people make a mistake in assuming what is causing them to feel aroused.


To test the causation of misattribution of arousal, Donald Dutton and Arthur Aron (1974) assigned a young and attractive woman to survey men for her psychology project on the effects of scenic attractions on people's creativity in a visiting park located in British Columbia. The experiment was intended to help determine whether one's arousal levels were caused be specific events (i.e. the approach from the attractive woman or the experienced by the subjects. As the men finished the survey, the woman explained she would be available to answer any questions regarding her project, giving her phone number and name to the male subjects.

Dutton and Aron wondered if the participants were more likely to call the woman because they were physically attracted to her or not. However, Dutton and Aron had to take into consideration that some factors of the men, such as the possibility of some men already involved in a relationship or how an individual male interpreted the woman's body gestures.

Therefore, Dutton and Aron had the woman survey the men under two conditions: while they were crossing a 450-foot-long bridge or after they crossed the bridge and had enough time to rest. In the first condition, the men who were surveyed during their cross over the bridge would have caused their arousal level to increase as they were speaking to the woman. Conditions, such as experiencing winds during their walk and the nervous feeling may have contributed to their fast paced heartbeats and rapid breathing.

In the other condition, the woman had approached the men after they had crossed the bridge. They had enough time to rest and get their heartbeat and breathing at a normal pace.


As a result, the men who were approached on the bridge were found to be more aroused and could have mistaken their arousal from the bridge for the arousal they experienced from the attractive woman's presence. There was a large amount of those in the first condition who called the woman and asked her for a date, whereas there was a lower number in men who called the woman after crossing the bridge and resting. Similar results were found when a male approached women in the same situation.

See also


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