Award Date


Degree Type


Degree Name

Master of Arts (MA)



First Committee Member

Marta Meana

Number of Pages



A debate exists in the literature over whether dyspareunia should be classified as a sexual dysfunction or as a pain disorder in the Diagnostic and Statistical Manual of Mental Disorders. We do not know, however, the extent to which women with this disorder experience it as more of a pain problem, or more of a sexual problem, or whether both aspects are equally salient. Cognitive methodologies have been informative in the study of sexual information and stimulus processing. By examining visual attention and basic memory for pain- and sex-related words, this study aimed to elucidate whether there was a differential saliency between the pain and sex aspects of dyspareunia. Twenty women with dyspareunia and twenty women experiencing no sexual dysfunction (controls) participated in visual attention and memory protocols designed to detect differences as a function of group membership and type of stimulus. In terms of visual attention, results revealed that all women attended more to pain words than to sex words. In terms of memory, all women had better recall for sex-related words; however, women with dyspareunia evidenced more false memories for pain words than did control women, and pain words elicited more false memories than any other type of word for women with dyspareunia. Results are interpreted to indicate that repeated activation through experience contributed to women with dyspareunia (1) having stronger semantic networks related to pain than no-pain controls, (2) having stronger semantic networks for pain than for sex, (3) and that, in comparison to no-pain controls, activation of pain networks was more easily triggered by pain-related stimuLi


Cognitive; Dyspareunia; More; Pain; Processing; Salient; Sex; Women

Controlled Subject

Clinical psychology; Cognitive psychology

File Format


File Size

1546.24 KB

Degree Grantor

University of Nevada, Las Vegas




If you are the rightful copyright holder of this dissertation or thesis and wish to have the full text removed from Digital Scholarship@UNLV, please submit a request to and include clear identification of the work, preferably with URL.


IN COPYRIGHT. For more information about this rights statement, please visit