Archives of Sexual Behavior

, Volume 48, Issue 2, pp 495–505 | Cite as

Sexual Probability Discounting: A Mechanism for Sexually Transmitted Infection Among Undergraduate Students

  • Meredith S. Berry
  • Patrick S. Johnson
  • Anahí Collado
  • Jennifer M. Loya
  • Richard Yi
  • Matthew W. JohnsonEmail author
Original Paper


Lack of condom use among youth is a major contributor to the spread of sexually transmitted infections (STIs) including HIV/AIDS, which has lifelong deleterious health consequences. College students (N = 262) completed the Sexual Probability Discounting Task in which participants reported their likelihood of condom use under various probabilities of contracting an STI. Each participant completed the task in regard to different STIs including HIV/AIDS and different partners. Results showed that the likelihood of condom-protected sex generally decreased as HIV/AIDS and other STI contraction became less probable. Moreover, condom-protected sex likelihood was related to STI type (e.g., decreased condom-protected sex in chlamydia relative to HIV/AIDS condition) and partner desirability (decreased condom-protected sex with more desirable partners). Results are the first to show that compared to other STIs, HIV/AIDS had the most influence on condom-protected sex. Results showed probability discounting contributed to lack of condom-protected sex and offers a novel framework for examining determinants of within-subject variability in condom use.


Sexual health HIV/AIDS Sexually transmitted infections Condom use Sexual Probability Discounting Task 



This research was supported in part by National Institute on Drug Abuse (NIDA) Grants R01DA032363, T32DA07209 and R01DA11692.

Compliance with Ethical Standards

Conflict of interest

The authors declare that they have no conflict of interest.

Ethical Approval

All procedures performed in studies involving human participants were in accordance with the ethical standards of the institutional and/or national research committee and with the 1964 Declaration of Helsinki and its later amendments or comparable ethical standards. This article does not contain any studies with animals performed by any of the authors.

Informed Consent

Informed consent was obtained from all individual participants included in the study.


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Copyright information

© Springer Science+Business Media, LLC, part of Springer Nature 2018

Authors and Affiliations

  • Meredith S. Berry
    • 1
  • Patrick S. Johnson
    • 1
    • 3
  • Anahí Collado
    • 2
    • 4
  • Jennifer M. Loya
    • 2
    • 5
  • Richard Yi
    • 2
    • 6
  • Matthew W. Johnson
    • 1
    Email author
  1. 1.Behavioral Pharmacology Research Unit, Department of Psychiatry and Behavioral SciencesJohns Hopkins University School of MedicineBaltimoreUSA
  2. 2.Department of PsychologyUniversity of MarylandCollege ParkUSA
  3. 3.Department of PsychologyCalifornia State UniversityChicoUSA
  4. 4.Alvord, Baker and Associates, LLCRockvilleUSA
  5. 5.Department of PsychologyGeorge Mason UniversityFairfaxUSA
  6. 6.Department of Health Education and BehaviorUniversity of FloridaGainesvilleUSA

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