That time scientists tried to use Pavlovian conditioning for sex

Can humans be conditioned the same way dogs are? And, if so, can they be conditioned to have a sexual response rather than a salivary one? You bet they can!

Ivan Pavlov was a renowned physiologist who earned enduring fame by conditioning dogs to salivate at the sound of a buzzer. Pavlov sounded a buzzer before presenting the dogs with food. Initially the dogs salivated when they saw the food. After some time, they came to salivate when they heard the buzzer, without the food being presented. Salivation is a reflexive response, but Pavlov proved that anything could be made to trigger the reflex. This came to be known as the conditioned reflex, or Pavlovian response.

(Incidentally, Pavlov got hungry himself during these trials and, to keep himself away from the meat that was to be given to the dogs, invented a filling dessert that has since been called the pavlova. He also got cold during the dog-watching sessions and knitted himself a garment called the pavlover or, in its anglicized form, pullover. Truly, he was a Renaissance man.)

In the 1970s, scientists wanted to know if they could condition a sexual reflex in men. First they got volunteers and hooked them up to a device that measured tumescence. Then they showed the men slides. The sequence of slides was always the same - naked women, and then boots. Naked women, and then boots.

After some time, the scientists were pleased to see that the men responded to pictures of boots without ever seeing the naked women. Some of the men even showed response to sandals and high heels. They managed to instill fetishes in human beings. It would be interesting to see how deeply the fetishes "took." Was it specific to time and place, or did the scientists engineer a lifelong fetish in people?

[Via Bonk.]