Acute Effects of Intoxication and Arousal on Approach/Avoidance Biases Toward Sexual Risk Stimuli in Heterosexual Men

Abstract

This study tested the effects of alcohol intoxication and physiological arousal on cognitive biases toward erotic stimuli and condoms. Ninety-seven heterosexual men were randomized to 1 of 6 independent conditions in a 2 (high arousal or control) × 3 (alcohol target BAC = 0.08, placebo, or juice control) design and then completed a variant of the Approach–Avoidance Task (AAT). The AAT assessed reaction times toward approaching and avoiding erotic stimuli and condoms with a joystick. Consistent with hypotheses, the alcohol condition exhibited an approach bias toward erotic stimuli, whereas the control and placebo groups exhibited an approach bias toward condom stimuli. Similarly, the participants in the high arousal condition exhibited an approach bias toward erotic stimuli and the low arousal control condition exhibited an approach bias toward condoms. The results suggest that acute changes in intoxication and physiological arousal independently foster biased responding toward sexual stimuli and these biases are associated with sexual risk intentions.

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Fig. 1
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Notes

  1. 1.

    Individuals in the control condition spent the same amount of time (on average) engaged in activities requiring no physical exertion.

  2. 2.

    The D score is similar to the well-known Cohen’s d measure of effect size in that it is taking a mean difference and dividing by a standard deviation. However, D is calculated by dividing by the subject SD across all trials rather than using the pooled within-condition SD (Greenwald et al., 2003).

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Acknowledgments

This research was supported in part by National Institute on Alcohol Abuse and Alcoholism Grants R01AA017433 (JSS), 2K05 AA16928 (SAM), and F31AA020151 (TBW). The content is solely the responsibility of the authors and does not necessarily represent the official views of the National Institutes of Health. The authors thank Rob Dvorak and Frank Schieber for their assistance programming the AAT.

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The authors have no conflicts of interest.

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Correspondence to Jeffrey S. Simons.

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Simons, J.S., Maisto, S.A., Wray, T.B. et al. Acute Effects of Intoxication and Arousal on Approach/Avoidance Biases Toward Sexual Risk Stimuli in Heterosexual Men. Arch Sex Behav 45, 43–51 (2016). https://doi.org/10.1007/s10508-014-0477-x

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Keywords

  • Implicit associations
  • Alcohol administration
  • Risky sex