Archives of Sexual Behavior

, Volume 43, Issue 3, pp 473–482 | Cite as

Sexual Picture Processing Interferes with Decision-Making Under Ambiguity

  • Christian Laier
  • Mirko Pawlikowski
  • Matthias Brand
Original Paper

Abstract

Many people watch sexually arousing material on the Internet in order to receive sexual arousal and gratification. When browsing for sexual stimuli, individuals have to make several decisions, all possibly leading to positive or negative consequences. Decision-making research has shown that decisions under ambiguity are influenced by consequences received following earlier decisions. Sexual arousal might interfere with the decision-making process and should therefore lead to disadvantageous decision-making in the long run. In the current study, 82 heterosexual, male participants watched sexual pictures, rated them with respect to sexual arousal, and were asked to indicate their current level of sexual arousal before and following the sexual picture presentation. Afterwards, subjects performed one of two modified versions of the Iowa Gambling Task in which sexual pictures were displayed on the advantageous and neutral pictures on the disadvantageous card decks or vice versa (n = 41/n = 41). Results demonstrated an increase of sexual arousal following the sexual picture presentation. Decision-making performance was worse when sexual pictures were associated with disadvantageous card decks compared to performance when the sexual pictures were linked to the advantageous decks. Subjective sexual arousal moderated the relationship between task condition and decision-making performance. This study emphasized that sexual arousal interfered with decision-making, which may explain why some individuals experience negative consequences in the context of cybersex use.

Keywords

Decision-making Iowa Gambling Task Sexual arousal 

Notes

Acknowledgments

The authors have no conflict of interest and no financial disclosures.

References

  1. Ariely, D., & Loewenstein, G. (2006). The heat of the moment: The effect of sexual arousal on sexual decision making. Journal of Behavioral Decision Making, 19, 87–98. doi:10.1002/bdm.501.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  2. Arnow, B. A., Desmond, J. E., Banner, L. L., Glover, G. H., Solomon, A., Polan, M. L., et al. (2002). Brain activation and sexual arousal in healthy, heterosexual males. Brain, 125, 1014–1023. doi:10.1093/brain/awf108.CrossRefPubMedGoogle Scholar
  3. Bancroft, J., Graham, C. A., Janssen, E., & Sanders, S. A. (2009). The dual control model: Current status and future directions. Journal of Sex Research, 46, 121–142. doi:10.1080/00224490902747222.CrossRefPubMedGoogle Scholar
  4. Bechara, A. (2007). Iowa Gambling Task Professional Manual. Lutz: Psychological Assessment Resources.Google Scholar
  5. Bechara, A., Damasio, H., & Damasio, A. R. (2000a). Emotion, decision making and the orbitofrontal cortex. Cerebral Cortex, 10, 295–307. doi:10.1093/cercor/10.3.295.CrossRefPubMedGoogle Scholar
  6. Bechara, A., Damasio, H., & Damasio, A. R. (2003). Role of the amygdala in decision-making. Annals of the New York Academy of Sciences, 985, 356–369. doi:10.1111/j.1749-6632.2003.tb07094.x.CrossRefPubMedGoogle Scholar
  7. Bechara, A., Damasio, R., Damasio, H., & Anderson, S. W. (1994). Insensitivity to future consequences following damage to human prefrontal cortex. Cognition, 50, 7–15. doi:10.1016/0010-0277(94)90018-3.CrossRefPubMedGoogle Scholar
  8. Bechara, A., Damasio, H., Damasio, A. R., & Lee, G. P. (1999). Different contributions of the human amygdala and ventromedial prefrontal cortex to decision-making. Journal of Neuroscience, 19, 5473–5481.PubMedGoogle Scholar
  9. Bechara, A., Damasio, H., Tranel, D., & Damasio, A. R. (1997). Deciding advantageously before knowing the advantageous strategy. Science, 275, 1293–1295. doi:10.1126/science.275.5304.1293.CrossRefPubMedGoogle Scholar
  10. Bechara, A., & Martin, E. M. (2004). Impaired decision making related to working memory deficits in individuals with substance addictions. Neuropsychology, 18, 152–162. doi:10.1037/0894-4105.18.1.152.CrossRefPubMedGoogle Scholar
  11. Bechara, A., Tranel, D., & Damasio, H. (2000b). Characterization of the decision-making deficit of patients with ventromedial prefrontal cortex lesions. Brain, 123, 2189–2202. doi:10.1093/brain/123.11.2189.CrossRefPubMedGoogle Scholar
  12. Bolla, K. I., Eldreth, D. A., London, E. D., Kiehl, K. A., Mouratidis, M., Contoreggi, C., et al. (2003). Orbitofrontal cortex dysfunction in abstinent cocaine abusers performing a decision-making task. NeuroImage, 19, 1085–1094. doi:10.1016/S1053-8119(03)00113-7.PubMedCentralCrossRefPubMedGoogle Scholar
  13. Bowman, C. H., & Turnbull, O. H. (2003). Real versus facsimile reinforcers on the Iowa Gambling Task. Brain and Cognition, 53, 207–210. doi:10.1016/S0278-2626(03)00111-8.CrossRefPubMedGoogle Scholar
  14. Brand, M., & Altstötter-Gleich, C. (2008). Personality and decision-making in laboratory gambling tasks—Evidence for a relationship between deciding advantageously under risk conditions and perfectionism. Personality and Individual Differences, 45, 226–231. doi:10.1016/j.paid.2008.04.003.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  15. Brand, M., Labudda, K., & Markowitsch, H. J. (2006). Neuropsychological correlates of decision-making in ambiguous and risky situations. Neural Networks, 19, 1266–1276. doi:10.1016/j.neunet.2006.03.001.CrossRefPubMedGoogle Scholar
  16. Brand, M., Laier, C., Pawlikowski, M., & Markowitsch, H. J. (2009). Decision making with and without feedback: The role of intelligence, strategies, executive functions, and cognitive styles. Journal of Clinical and Experimental Neuropsychology, 31, 984–998. doi:10.1080/13803390902776860.CrossRefPubMedGoogle Scholar
  17. Brand, M., Laier, C., Pawlikowski, M., Schächtle, U., Schöler, T., & Altstötter-Gleich, C. (2011). Watching pornographic pictures on the Internet: Role of sexual arousal ratings and psychological–psychiatric symptoms for using Internet sex sites excessively. Cyberpsychology, Behavior and Social Networking, 14, 371–377. doi:10.1089/cyber.2010.0222.CrossRefPubMedGoogle Scholar
  18. Brand, M., Recknor, E. C., Grabenhorst, F., & Bechara, A. (2007). Decisions under ambiguity and decisions under risk: Correlations with executive functions and comparisons of two different gambling tasks with implicit and explicit rules. Journal of Clinical and Experimental Neuropsychology, 29, 86–99. doi:10.1080/13803390500507196.CrossRefPubMedGoogle Scholar
  19. Buelow, M. T., & Suhr, J. A. (2009). Construct validity of the Iowa Gambling Task. Neuropsychology Review, 19, 102–114. doi:10.1007/s11065-009-9083-4.CrossRefPubMedGoogle Scholar
  20. Cohen, J., Cohen, P., West, S. G., & Aiken, L. S. (2003). Applied multiple regression/correlation analysis for the behavioral sciences. Mahwah, NJ: Lawrence Erlbaum.Google Scholar
  21. Cooper, A., Delmonico, D., Griffin-Shelley, E., & Mathy, R. (2004). Online sexual activity: An examination of potentially problematic behaviors. Sexual Addiction & Compulsivity, 11, 129–143. doi:10.1080/10720160490882642.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  22. Cooper, A., McLoughlin, I. P., & Campbell, K. M. (2000). Sexuality in cyberspace: Update for the 21st century. CyberPsychology & Behavior, 3, 521–536. doi:10.1089/109493100420142.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  23. de Vries, M., Holland, R. W., & Witteman, C. L. M. (2008). In the winning mood: Affect in the Iowa Gambling Task. Judgment and Decision Making, 3, 42–50.Google Scholar
  24. Dolan, R. J. (2002). Emotion, cognition, and behavior. Science, 298, 1191–1194. doi:10.1126/science.1076358.CrossRefPubMedGoogle Scholar
  25. Dolcos, F., & McCarthy, G. (2006). Brain systems mediating cognitive interference by emotional distraction. Journal of Neuroscience, 26, 2072–2079. doi:10.1523/JNEUROSCI.5042-05.2006.CrossRefPubMedGoogle Scholar
  26. Döring, N. M. (2009). The Internet’s impact on sexuality: A critical review of 15 years of research. Computers in Human Behavior, 25, 1089–1101. doi:10.1016/j.chb.2009.04.003.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  27. Dunn, B. D., Dalgleish, T., & Lawrence, A. D. (2006). The somatic marker hypothesis: A critical evaluation. Neuroscience and Biobehavioral Reviews, 30, 239–271. doi:10.1016/j.neubiorev.2005.07.001.CrossRefPubMedGoogle Scholar
  28. Erk, S., Kleczar, A., & Walter, H. (2007). Valence-specific regulation effects in a working memory task with emotional context. NeuroImage, 37, 623–632. doi:10.1016/j.neuroimage.2007.05.006.CrossRefPubMedGoogle Scholar
  29. Gotoh, F. (2008). Influence of affective valence on working memory processes. International Journal of Psychology, 43, 59–71. doi:10.1080/00207590701318306.CrossRefPubMedGoogle Scholar
  30. Goudriaan, A. E., Oosterlaan, J., Beurs, E. D., & Brink, W. V. D. (2005). Decision making in pathological gambling: A comparison between pathological gamblers, alcohol dependents, persons with Tourette syndrome, and normal controls. Cognitive Brain Research, 23, 137–151. doi:10.1016/j.cogbrainres.2005.01.017.CrossRefPubMedGoogle Scholar
  31. Griffiths, M. (2001). Sex on the Internet: Observations and implications for Internet sex addiction. Journal of Sex Research, 38, 333–342. doi:10.1080/00224490109552104.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  32. Grov, C., Gillespie, B. J., Royce, T., & Lever, J. (2011). Perceived consequences of casual online sexual activities on heterosexual relationships: A U.S. online survey. Archives of Sexual Behavior, 40, 429–439. doi:10.1007/s10508-010-9598-z.CrossRefPubMedGoogle Scholar
  33. Hald, G. M., & Malamuth, N. M. (2008). Self-perceived effects of pornography consumption. Archives of Sexual Behavior, 37, 614–625. doi:10.1007/s10508-007-9212-1.CrossRefPubMedGoogle Scholar
  34. Hamann, S. (2001). Cognitive and neural mechanisms of emotional memory. Trends in Cognitive Sciences, 5, 394–400. doi:10.1016/S1364-6613(00)01707-1.CrossRefPubMedGoogle Scholar
  35. Holstege, G., Georgiadis, J. R., Paans, A. M. J., Meiners, L. C., van der Graaf, F. H. C. E., & Reinders, A. A. T. S. (2003). Brain activation during human male ejaculation. Journal of Neuroscience, 23, 9185–9193. doi:10.1097/WNR.0b013e3280b10bfe.PubMedGoogle Scholar
  36. Janssen, E. (2011). Sexual arousal in men: A review and conceptual analysis. Hormones and Behavior, 59, 708–716. doi:10.1016/j.yhbeh.2011.03.004.CrossRefPubMedGoogle Scholar
  37. Janssen, E., Everaerd, W., Spiering, M., & Janssen, J. (2000). Automatic processes and the appraisal of sexual stimuli: Toward an information processing model of sexual arousal. Journal of Sex Research, 37, 8–23. doi:10.1080/00224490009552016.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  38. Janssen, E., Prause, N., & Geer, J. H. (2007). The sexual response. In J. T. Cacioppo, L. G. Tassinary, & G. G. Berntson (Eds.), Handbook of psychophysiology (3rd ed., pp. 245–266). New York: Cambridge University Press.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  39. Kahneman, D. (2003). A perspective on judgment and choice: Mapping bounded rationality. American Psychologist, 58, 697–720. doi:10.1037/0003-066X.58.9.697.CrossRefPubMedGoogle Scholar
  40. Kalmus, E., & Beech, A. (2005). Forensic assessment of sexual interest: A review. Aggression and Violent Behavior, 10, 193–217. doi:10.1016/j.avb.2003.12.002.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  41. Kensinger, E. A., & Corkin, S. (2003). Effect of negative emotional content on working memory and long-term memory. Emotion, 3, 378–393. doi:10.1037/1528-3542.3.4.378.CrossRefPubMedGoogle Scholar
  42. Koob, G. F., & Volkow, N. D. (2010). Neurocircuitry of addiction. Neuropsychopharmacology, 35, 217–238. doi:10.1038/npp.2009.110.PubMedCentralCrossRefPubMedGoogle Scholar
  43. Kuss, D. J., & Griffiths, M. D. (2011). Internet sex addiction: A review of empirical research. Addiction Research & Theory, 116, 1–14. doi:10.3109/16066359.2011.588351.Google Scholar
  44. Laier, C., Schulte, F. P., & Brand, M. (2012). Pornographic picture processing interferes with working memory-performance. Journal of Sex Research,. doi:10.1080/00224499.2012.716873.PubMedGoogle Scholar
  45. Lang, P. J., Bradley, M. M., & Cuthbert, B. N. (2008). International affective picture system (IAPS): Affective ratings of pictures and instruction manual (Technical Report A-8). Gainesville, FL: University of Florida.Google Scholar
  46. Macapagal, K. R., Janssen, E., Fridberg, B. S., Finn, R., & Heiman, J. R. (2011). The effects of impulsivity, sexual arousability, and abstract intellectual ability on men’s and women’s Go/No-Go task performance. Archives of Sexual Behavior, 40, 995–1006. doi:10.1007/s10508-010-9676-2.PubMedCentralCrossRefPubMedGoogle Scholar
  47. Martin-Soelch, C., Leenders, K. L., Chevalley, A. F., Missimer, J., Künig, G., Magyar, S., et al. (2001). Reward mechanisms in the brain and their role in dependence: Evidence from neurophysiological and neuroimaging studies. Brain Research Reviews, 36, 139–149. doi:10.1016/S0165-0173(01)00089-3.CrossRefPubMedGoogle Scholar
  48. Most, S., Smith, S., Cooter, A., Levy, B., & Zald, D. (2007). The naked truth: Positive, arousing distractors impair rapid target perception. Cognition and Emotion, 21, 37–41. doi:10.1080/02699930600959340.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  49. Naqvi, N., Shiv, B., & Bechara, A. (2006). The role of emotion in decision making: A cognitive neuroscience perspective. Current Directions in Psychological Science, 15, 260–264. doi:10.1111/j.1467-8721.2006.00448.x.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  50. Paul, B. (2009). Predicting internet pornography use and arousal: The role of individual difference variables. Journal of Sex Research, 46, 344–357. doi:10.1080/00224490902754152.CrossRefPubMedGoogle Scholar
  51. Paul, T., Schiffer, B., Zwarg, T., Krüger, T. H. C., Karama, S., Schedlowski, M., et al. (2008). Brain response to visual sexual stimuli in heterosexual and homosexual males. Human Brain Mapping, 29, 726–735. doi:10.1002/hbm.20435.CrossRefPubMedGoogle Scholar
  52. Pawlikowski, M., Altstötter-Gleich, C., & Brand, M. (2013). Validation and psychometric properties of a German short version of Young’s Internet Addiction Test. Computers in Human Behavior, 29, 1212–1223. doi:10.1016/j.chb.2012.10.014.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  53. Prause, N., Janssen, E., & Hetrick, W. P. (2008). Attention and emotional responses to sexual stimuli and their relationship to sexual desire. Archives of Sexual Behavior, 37, 934–949. doi:10.1007/s10508-007-9236-6.CrossRefPubMedGoogle Scholar
  54. Preston, S. D., Buchanan, T. W., Stansfield, R. B., & Bechara, A. (2007). Effects of anticipatory stress on decision making in a gambling task. Behavioral Neuroscience, 121, 257–263. doi:10.1037/0735-7044.121.2.257.CrossRefPubMedGoogle Scholar
  55. Redouté, J., Stoléru, S., Grégoire, M.-C., Costes, N., Cinotti, L., Lavenne, F., et al. (2000). Brain processing of visual sexual stimuli in human males. Human Brain Mapping, 11, 162–177. doi:10.1002/1097-0193(200011)11:3<162:AID-HBM30>3.0.CO;2-A.CrossRefPubMedGoogle Scholar
  56. Robinson, T. E., & Berridge, K. C. (2001). Incentive-sensitization and addiction. Addiction, 96, 103–114. doi:10.1080/09652140020016996.CrossRefPubMedGoogle Scholar
  57. Rolls, E. T. (2000). The orbitofrontal cortex and reward. Cerebral Cortex, 10, 284–294. doi:10.1093/cercor/10.3.284.CrossRefPubMedGoogle Scholar
  58. Sachs, B. D. (2007). A contextual definition of male sexual arousal. Hormones and Behavior, 51, 569–578. doi:10.1016/j.yhbeh.2007.03.011.CrossRefPubMedGoogle Scholar
  59. Schiebener, J., Zamarian, L., Delazer, M., & Brand, M. (2011). Executive functions, categorization of probabilities, and learning from feedback: What does really matter for decision making under explicit risk conditions? Journal of Clinical and Experimental Neuropsychology, 33, 1025–1039. doi:10.1080/13803395.2011.595702.CrossRefPubMedGoogle Scholar
  60. Schimmack, U. (2005). Attentional interference effects of emotional pictures: Threat, negativity, or arousal? Emotion, 5, 55–66. doi:10.1037/1528-3542.5.1.55.CrossRefPubMedGoogle Scholar
  61. Shaughnessy, K., Byers, E. S., & Walsh, L. (2011). Online sexual activity experience of heterosexual students: Gender similarities and differences. Archives of Sexual Behavior, 40, 419–427. doi:10.1007/s10508-010-9629-9.CrossRefPubMedGoogle Scholar
  62. Short, M. B., Black, L., Smith, A. H., Wetterneck, C. T., & Wells, D. E. (2012). A review of Internet pornography use research: Methodology and content from the past 10 years. Cyberpsychology, Behavior, and Social Networking, 15, 13–23. doi:10.1089/cyber.2010.0477.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  63. Starcke, K., & Brand, M. (2012). Decision making under stress: A selective review. Neuroscience and Biobehavioral Reviews, 36, 1228–1248. doi:10.1016/j.neubiorev.2012.02.003.CrossRefPubMedGoogle Scholar
  64. Stolèru, S., Grégoire, M. C., Gerard, D., Decety, J., Lafarge, E., Cinotti, L., et al. (1999). Neuroanatomical correlates of visually evoked sexual arousal in human males. Archives of Sexual Behavior, 28, 1–21. doi:10.1023/A:1018733420467.CrossRefPubMedGoogle Scholar
  65. Suhr, J. A., & Tsanadis, J. (2007). Affect and personality correlates of the Iowa Gambling Task. Personality and Individual Differences, 43, 27–36. doi:10.1016/j.paid.2006.11.004.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  66. van den Bos, R., Harteveld, M., & Stoop, H. (2009). Stress and decision-making in humans: Performance is related to cortisol reactivity, albeit differently in men and women. Psychoneuroendocrinology, 34, 1449–1458. doi:10.1016/j.psyneuen.2009.04.016.CrossRefPubMedGoogle Scholar
  67. Vuilleumier, P. (2005). How brains beware: Neural mechanisms of emotional attention. Trends in Cognitive Sciences, 9, 585–594. doi:10.1016/j.tics.2005.10.011.CrossRefPubMedGoogle Scholar
  68. Widyanto, L., & Griffiths, M. (2006). “Internet addiction”: A critical review. International Journal of Mental Health and Addiction, 4, 31–51. doi:10.1007/s11469-006-9009-9.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  69. Wise, R. A. (2002). Brain reward circuitry: Insights from unsensed incentives. Neuron, 36, 229–240. doi:10.1016/S0896-6273(02)00965-0.CrossRefPubMedGoogle Scholar
  70. Wright, L. W., & Adams, H. E. (1999). The effects of stimuli that vary in erotic content on cognitive processes. Journal of Sex Research, 36, 145–151. doi:10.1080/00224499909551979.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  71. Young, K. S. (1998). Caught in the net: How to recognize the signs of Internet addiction—and a winning strategy for recovery. New York: Wiley.Google Scholar
  72. Young, K. S. (2008). Internet sex addiction: Risk factors, stages of development, and treatment. American Behavioral Scientist, 52, 21–37. doi:10.1177/0002764208321339.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  73. Young, K. S., Pistner, M., O’Mara, J., & Buchanan, J. (1999). Cyber disorders: The mental health concern for the new millennium. Cyberpsychology & Behavior, 2, 475–479. doi:10.1089/cpb.1999.2.475.CrossRefGoogle Scholar

Copyright information

© Springer Science+Business Media New York 2013

Authors and Affiliations

  • Christian Laier
    • 1
  • Mirko Pawlikowski
    • 1
  • Matthias Brand
    • 1
    • 2
  1. 1.Department of General Psychology: CognitionUniversity of Duisburg-EssenDuisburgGermany
  2. 2.Erwin L. Hahn Institute for Magnetic Resonance ImagingEssenGermany

Personalised recommendations