Archives of Sexual Behavior

, Volume 43, Issue 6, pp 1137–1148 | Cite as

Arousal, Working Memory Capacity, and Sexual Decision-Making in Men

  • Tara Spokes
  • Donald W. Hine
  • Anthony D. G. Marks
  • Peter Quain
  • Amy D. LykinsEmail author
Original Paper


This study investigated whether working memory capacity (WMC) moderated the relationship between physiological arousal and sexual decision making. A total of 59 men viewed 20 consensual and 20 non-consensual images of heterosexual interaction while their physiological arousal levels were recorded using skin conductance response. Participants also completed an assessment of WMC and a date-rape analogue task for which they had to identify the point at which an average Australian male would cease all sexual advances in response to verbal and/or physical resistance from a female partner. Participants who were more physiologically aroused by and spent more time viewing the non-consensual sexual imagery nominated significantly later stopping points on the date-rape analogue task. Consistent with our predictions, the relationship between physiological arousal and nominated stopping point was strongest for participants with lower levels of WMC. For participants with high WMC, physiological arousal was unrelated to nominated stopping point. Thus, executive functioning ability (and WMC in particular) appears to play an important role in moderating men’s decision making with regard to sexually aggressive behavior.


Sexual aggression Sexual arousal Working memory capacity Sexual offending Sexual decision-making 


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Copyright information

© Springer Science+Business Media New York 2014

Authors and Affiliations

  • Tara Spokes
    • 1
    • 2
  • Donald W. Hine
    • 1
  • Anthony D. G. Marks
    • 1
  • Peter Quain
    • 1
  • Amy D. Lykins
    • 1
    Email author
  1. 1.School of Behavioural Cognitive and Social SciencesUniversity of New EnglandArmidaleAustralia
  2. 2.School of PsychologyGriffith UniversityBrisbaneAustralia

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