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


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.


Decision-making Iowa Gambling Task Sexual arousal 



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


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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

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