Smartphone Battery Levels and Sexual Decision-Making Among Men Who Have Sex with Men


Smartphone-dating and hook-up apps are undeniable factors in the modern landscape of sexuality. In particular, gay and bisexual men have bridged social and societal barriers for connection by using these apps. Despite advantages afforded by such technological advancements, when individuals are faced with a low phone battery, a sense of urgency may be experienced, which can increase risk-taking behaviours to accommodate an impending phone “death”. The purpose of this study was to determine whether a draining smartphone battery would facilitate a greater likelihood of agreeing to a hookup encounter. Participants were randomly assigned to one of three battery life condition groups (5%, 20%, 100%) and were asked how likely they were to agree to a hookup with a simulated potential sexual partner. We discovered that, relative to a full battery condition, participants were more likely to agree to a hookup in the lowest battery condition. Additionally, men who reported a greater likelihood of agreeing to a hookup also endorsed a greater propensity for sensation seeking, regardless of the battery condition. These findings have practical implications for educating smartphone users who utilize dating and hookup apps about how scarcity decision-making and sensation-seeking can impact the ability to practice safe sexual behaviours.

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We would like to thank Amanda Champion and Shelby Hughes for helpful contributions on earlier versions of this manuscript.

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Correspondence to Cory L. Pedersen.

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Appendix A

Independent Variable: Hook-Up Vignette

Over the past few days, you’ve been messaging a man you met through a dating app on your phone. You find him very attractive. He’s exactly the kind of guy you’re attracted to. While chatting with him, he’s been flirtatious and expressed sexual interest. Late one evening, while messaging him on your phone, you both begin to chat sexually with each other about the many sexual things you would like to do together. You both express being very aroused by the conversation.

Appendix B

Independent Variable: Screenshot with 5% Battery-Life Remaining


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Lopes, A., Skoda, K. & Pedersen, C.L. Smartphone Battery Levels and Sexual Decision-Making Among Men Who Have Sex with Men. Sexuality & Culture 23, 1301–1314 (2019).

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  • Hookups
  • Dating applications
  • MSM
  • Decision-making
  • Smartphones