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The Role of Experiential Avoidance in Problematic Pornography Viewing


Research suggests that online pornography use can have harmful consequences for some individuals, but the psychological processes that contribute to problematic viewing are unclear. This study sought to evaluate the role of experiential avoidance in the negative consequences of online pornography viewing in a small cross-sectional survey sample of 91 male college students who reported viewing. Results indicated that viewing pornography for experientially avoidant motivations was related to more frequent viewing and predicted self-reported negative consequences of viewing over and above other motivations (e.g., sexual pleasure, curiosity, excitement seeking). Although more frequent viewing was related to more self-reported negative consequences, this relation was consistently mediated by viewing for experiential avoidance in this sample. Study limitations included a homogeneous sample of primarily white students, a relatively low rate of reported pornography viewing, and use of only self-report assessment. Results suggest that viewing to avoid unwanted emotions might account for both frequent viewing and its negative consequences, highlighting a promising target for future interventions seeking to reduce problematic pornography viewing.

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Correspondence to Michael E. Levin.

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The authors have no conflicts of interest to declare in relation to this manuscript.

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All procedures performed in studies involving human participants were in accordance with the ethical standards of the institutional and/or national research committee and with the 1964 Helsinki declaration and its later amendments or comparable ethical standards.

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Informed consent was obtained from all individual participants included in the study.

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Levin, M.E., Lee, E.B. & Twohig, M.P. The Role of Experiential Avoidance in Problematic Pornography Viewing. Psychol Rec 69, 1–12 (2019).

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  • Experiential avoidance
  • Acceptance and commitment therapy
  • Mindfulness
  • Pornography
  • Internet addiction