Archives of Sexual Behavior

, Volume 40, Issue 5, pp 995–1006 | Cite as

The Effects of Impulsivity, Sexual Arousability, and Abstract Intellectual Ability on Men’s and Women’s Go/No-Go Task Performance

  • Kathryn R. MacapagalEmail author
  • Erick Janssen
  • Daniel J. Fridberg
  • Peter R. Finn
  • Julia R. Heiman


While a number of studies have assessed the role of personality traits, situational variables, and drug use on sexual risk behaviors, fewer studies have employed experimental methods to examine cognitive processes that may underlie risky sexual decision making. This study used a go/no-go paradigm to examine how individual difference variables and sexual arousal influence discrimination learning and sexual and nonsexual decision making. A total of 28 men (M age = 20 years) and 25 women (M age = 19 years) completed self-report measures of impulsivity, abstract intellectual ability, and sexual excitation and inhibition and participated in a laboratory experiment. The experiment consisted of two go/no-go tasks with sexual stimuli and two tasks with neutral stimuli, preceded by either sexually arousing or sexually neutral stimulus presentations. Task performance was measured by totals of false alarms and misses. Individuals high in impulsivity and low in abstract intellectual ability committed more false alarms in conditions involving sexually arousing stimuli. Furthermore, higher sexual excitation scores were linked to more misses. These findings indicate that cognitive processes associated with decision making that occurs in the “heat of the moment” are influenced by a combination of situational and sexual and nonsexual individual difference variables.


Go/no-go task Impulsivity Sexual arousability Intellectual ability Dual processes 



This research was supported by predoctoral fellowships to the first author from the National Institute of Mental Health (T32-MH17146) and the National Institutes of Health (TL1-RR025759), as well as a graduate research grant from the Friends of the Kinsey Institute. Development of the Hot/Cool Picture Set was supported by a grant from the National Institute on Drug Abuse to Peter R. Finn (1R01-DA017924).


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Copyright information

© Springer Science+Business Media, LLC 2010

Authors and Affiliations

  • Kathryn R. Macapagal
    • 1
    • 2
    Email author
  • Erick Janssen
    • 1
    • 2
  • Daniel J. Fridberg
    • 2
  • Peter R. Finn
    • 2
  • Julia R. Heiman
    • 1
    • 2
  1. 1.The Kinsey Institute for Research in Sex, Gender, and ReproductionIndiana UniversityBloomingtonUSA
  2. 2.Department of Psychological & Brain SciencesIndiana UniversityBloomingtonUSA

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