Studies linking porn use to poorer mental-emotional health & poorer cognitive outcomes

Many individuals who cease using porn for an extended period of time report mental and cognitive benefits, such as improved concentration and focus, better grades, increased energy and motivation, social anxiety improved or gone, increased confidence, improved mood, depression reduced or gone, greater desire to be social, more intense or vibrant emotions, and increased desire to be in a loving relationship.

Here are relevant FAQs with hundreds of first-person accounts:

Some studies have looked at (1) porn use and mental health, and (2) porn use and cognitive functioning. Below are the two lists of these studies.


Studies finding links between porn use and poorer mental and emotional health:

Variations in internet-related problems and psychosocial functioning in online sexual activities: implications for social and sexual development of young adults (2004) – Excerpts:

Students who did not participate in either online sexual activity were more satisfied with their offline life and more connected to friends and family. Those who engaged in both online sexual activities were more dependent on the Internet and reported lower offline functioning.

Despite students’ common participation in online sexual activities (OSA) as a venue for social and sexual development, those relying on the Internet and the affiliations it provides appear at risk of decreased social integration.

Internet Pornography and Loneliness: An Association? (2005) – Excerpt:

Results showed a significant association between Internet pornography usage and loneliness as evidenced by the data analysis.

Use of Internet Pornography and Men’s Well-Being (2005) – Excerpt:

Although most individuals utilize the Internet for occupational, educational, recreational, and shopping purposes, a sizable male minority exists, known as Cybersex compulsives and at-risk users, who invest an inordinate amount of their time, money, and energy in the pursuit of Cybersex experiences with negative intrapersonal ramifications in terms of depression, anxiety, and problems with felt intimacy with their real-life partners.

Exposure to internet pornography among children and adolescents a national survey (2005) – Excerpts:

Using data from the Youth Internet Safety Survey, a nationally representative, cross-sectional telephone survey of 1501 children and adolescents (ages 10-17 years), characteristics associated with self-reported pornography seeking behavior, both on the Internet and using traditional methods (e.g., magazines), are identified.

Those who report intentional exposure to pornography, irrespective of source, are significantly more likely to cross-sectionally report delinquent behavior and substance use in the previous year. Further, online seekers versus offline seekers are more likely to report clinical features associated with depression and lower levels of emotional bonding with their caregiver.

Adolescent pornographic internet site use: a multivariate regression analysis of the predictive factors of use and psychosocial implications (2009) – Excerpt:

Compared to non-pornographic Internet site users, infrequent pornographic Internet site users users were twice as likely to have abnormal conduct problems; frequent pornographic Internet site users were significantly more likely to have abnormal conduct problems. Thus, both infrequent and frequent pornographic Internet site use are prevalent and significantly associated with social maladjustment among Greek adolescents.

Social bonds and Internet pornographic exposure among adolescents (2009) – A summary from a review:

The study found that adolescents with higher degrees of social interaction and bonding were not as likely to consume sexually explicit material as were their less social peers (Mesch, 2009). Additionally, Mesch found that greater quantities of pornography consumption were significantly correlated with lower degrees of social integration, specifically related to religion, school, society, and family. The study also found a statistically significant relationship between pornography consumption and aggressiveness in school, with higher degrees.

“I believe it is wrong but I still do it”: A comparison of religious young men who do versus do not use pornography (2010) – Excerpt:

Participants were 192 emerging-adult men ages 18–27 attending a religious university in the Western United States. While they all believed pornography to be unacceptable, those who did not use pornography (compared to those who did) reported (a) higher levels of past and recent individual religious practices, (b) past family religious practices, (c) higher levels of self-worth and identity development regarding dating and family, and (d) lower levels of depression.

Frequent users of pornography. A population based epidemiological study of Swedish male adolescents (2010) – Excerpts

Frequent use was also associated with many problem behaviours. High frequent viewing of pornography may be seen as a problematic behaviour that needs more attention from both parents and teachers and also to be addressed in clinical interviews.

Mental-and physical-health indicators and sexually explicit media use behavior by adults (2011) – Excerpt:

After adjusting for demographics, Pornography (SEMB) users, compared to nonusers, reported greater depressive symptoms, poorer quality of life, more mental- and physical-health diminished days, and lower health status.

Watching Pornographic Pictures on the Internet: Role of Sexual Arousal Ratings and Psychological-Psychiatric Symptoms for Using Internet Sex Sites Excessively (2011)Scores on a porn addiction questionnaire (IATsex) correlated with higher levels of psychological problems such as: interpersonal sensitivity, depression, paranoid thinking and psychoticism. Excerpts:

We found a positive relationship between subjective sexual arousal when watching Internet pornographic pictures and the self-reported problems in daily life due to the excessiveness of cybersex as measured by the IATsex. Subjective arousal ratings, the global severity of psychological symptoms, and the number of sex applications used were significant predictors of the IATsex score, while the time spent on Internet sex sites did not significantly contribute to explanation of variance in the IATsex score.

In our sample, the global symptom severity (SCL GSI), as well as interpersonal sensitivity, depression, paranoid thinking and psychoticism, were correlated particularly with the IATsex score.

Frequency of pornography use is indirectly associated with lower relationship confidence through depression symptoms and physical assault among Chinese young adults (2011) – Excerpts:

Using data from young adults living in Beijing and Guangzhou, China this study examined the direct association between frequency of pornography use and relationship confidence and indirect associations through depression symptoms and physical assault. Results using structural equation modeling demonstrated that higher frequency of pornography use was indirectly linked with lower relationship confidence via depression symptoms and physical assault  We should be concerned as researchers, educators, and clinicians about the well-being of those who use pornography and exhibit negative coping skills that put them at risk for perpetrating physical assault.

When is Online Pornography Viewing Problematic Among College Males? Examining the Moderating Role of Experiential Avoidance (2012) – Excerpt:

The current study examined the relationship of Internet pornography viewing and experiential avoidance to a range of psychosocial problems (depression, anxiety, stress, social functioning, and problems related to viewing) through a cross-sectional online survey conducted with a non-clinical sample of 157 undergraduate college males. Results indicated that frequency of viewing was significantly related to each psychosocial variable, such that more viewing was related to greater problems.

Women, Female Sex and Love Addicts, and Use of the Internet (2012) – This study compared female cybersex addicts to female sex addicts, and female non-addicts. The cybersex addicts experienced higher levels of depression. An excerpt:

For each of these variables, the pattern was that participants in the cybersex group and participants in the addicted/no cybersex group were more likely to experience depression, attempt suicide, or have withdrawal symptoms than participants in the non-addicted/no cybersex group. Participants in the cybersex group were more likely to report being depressed than participants in the addicted/no cybersex group.

Consumption of Pornographic Materials among Hong Kong Early Adolescents: A Replication (2012) – Excerpts:

In general, higher levels of positive youth development and better family functioning were related to a lower level of pornography consumption. The relative contribution of positive youth development and family factors to consumption of pornographic materials was also explored.

The present study attempted to explore the linkage between family functioning and pornography consumption.Three features of family functioning, mutuality, communication and harmony were negatively related to pornography consumption.

Emerging Adult Sexual Attitudes and Behaviors: Does Shyness Matter? (2013) – Excerpt:

Shyness was positively associated with solitary sexual behaviors of masturbation and pornography use for men.

Narcissism & Internet Pornography Use (2014) – Excerpt:

The hours spent viewing Internet pornography use was positively correlated to participant’s narcissism level. Additionally, those who have ever used Internet pornography endorsed higher levels of all three measures of narcissism than those who have never used Internet pornography.

Pornography and Marriage (2014) – Porn use correlated with less overall happiness. An excerpt:

We found that adults who had watched an X-rated movie in the past year were more likely to be divorced, more likely to have had an extramarital affair, and less likely to report being happy with their marriage or happy overall.We also found that, for men, pornography use reduced the positive relationship between frequency of sex and happiness.

Use of Pornography and its Associations with Sexual Experiences, Lifestyles and Health among Adolescents (2014) – Excerpts:

In the longitudinal analyses frequent use of pornography was more associated to psychosomatic symptoms compared with depressive symptoms.

Male frequent users of pornography more often reported peer-relationship problems than their peers.

Psychological, Relational, and Sexual Correlates of Pornography Use on Young Adult Heterosexual Men in Romantic Relationships (2014) – Higher porn use and problematic porn use was linked to more avoidant and anxious attachment styles. Excerpt:

Thus, the purpose of this study was to examine theorized antecedents (i.e., gender role conflict and attachment styles) and consequences (i.e., poorer relationship quality and sexual satisfaction) of men’s pornography use among 373 young adult heterosexual men. Findings revealed that both frequency of pornography use and problematic pornography use were related to greater gender role conflict, more avoidant and anxious attachment styles, poorer relationship quality, and less sexual satisfaction.

Neural Correlates of Sexual Cue Reactivity in Individuals with and without Compulsive Sexual Behaviours (2014) – Even though Voon et al., 2014 excluded individuals with major psychiatric conditions, the porn addicted subjects scores higher on depression and anxiety assessments. Excerpt:

CSB subjects [porn addicts] had higher depression and anxiety scores (Table S2 in File S1) but no current diagnoses of major depression

No Harm in Looking, Right? Men’s Pornography Consumption, Body Image, and Well-Being (2014) – Excerpt:

Path analyses revealed that men’s frequency of pornography use was (a) positively linked to muscularity and body fat dissatisfaction indirectly through internalization of the mesomorphic ideal, (b) negatively linked to body appreciation directly and indirectly through body monitoring, (c) positively linked to negative affect indirectly through romantic attachment anxiety and avoidance, and (d) negatively linked to positive affect indirectly through relationship attachment anxiety and avoidance.

Patient Characteristics by Type of Hypersexuality Referral: A Quantitative Chart Review of 115 Consecutive Male Cases (2015) – Study placed “hypersexuals” into 2 categories: “chronic adulterers” and “avoidant masturbators” (who were chronic porn users).

The avoidant masturbator subtype was operationalized as those cases who reported more than 1 hr (or one episode) of masturbation per day or more than 1 hr of pornography viewing per day, or more than 7 hr (or episodes) per week.

With respect to the mental health and sexological variables, the avoidant masturbator subtype [compulsive porn users] was significantly more likely to report a history of anxiety problems and of sexual functioning problems (71% vs. 31%) with delayed ejaculation being the most commonly reported sexual functioning problem.

Perceived Addiction to Internet Pornography and Psychological Distress: Examining Relationships Concurrently and Over Time (2015) – Ignore the phrase “perceived addiction, as it really means the total score on the Grubbs’s CPUI-9, which is an actual porn addiction questionnaire (see YBOP full critique of the perceived porn addiction nonsense). Put simply, porn addiction is correlated with psychological distress (anger, depression, anxiety, stress). An excerpt:

At the outset of this study, we hypothesized that “perceived addiction” to Internet pornography would be positively associated with psychological distress. Using a large cross-sectional sample of adult web users and a large cross-sectional sample of undergraduate web users, we found consistent support for this hypothesis. Additionally, in a 1-year longitudinal analysis of undergraduate pornography users, we found links between perceived addiction and psychological distress over time. Collectively, these findings strongly underscore the claim that “perceived addiction” to Internet pornography likely contributes to the experience of psychological distress for some individuals.

An Online Assessment of Personality, Psychological, and Sexuality Trait Variables Associated with Self-Reported Hypersexual Behavior (2015) Porn/sex addiction was not only related to fear of experiencing erectile dysfunction, it was also linked to depression and anxiety. An excerpt:

Hypersexual” behavior represents a perceived inability to control one’s sexual behavior. To investigate hypersexual behavior, an international sample of 510 self-identified heterosexual, bisexual, and homosexual men and women completed an anonymous online self-report questionnaire battery. In addition to age and sex (male), hypersexual behavior was related to higher scores on measures of sexual excitation, sexual inhibition due to the threat of performance failure, trait impulsivity, and both depressed mood and anxiety.

Lower Psychological Well-Being and Excessive Sexual Interest Predict Symptoms of Compulsive Use of Sexually Explicit Internet Material Among Adolescent Boys (2015) – Excerpt:

This study investigated whether factors from three distinct psychosocial domains (i.e., psychological well-being, sexual interests/behaviors, and impulsive-psychopathic personality) predicted symptoms of compulsive use of sexually explicit Internet material among adolescent boys. Longitudinally, higher levels of depressive feelings and, again, excessive sexual interest predicted relative increases in compulsive use symptoms 6 months later.

Psychological, Relational, and Biological Correlates of Ego-Dystonic Masturbation in a Clinical Setting (2016) – The original paper (here) used the phrase “Compulsive Masturbation” to describe the subject’s activity. The paper’s publisher (Sexual Medicine Open) changed “Compulsive Masturbation” to “Ego-Dystonic Masturbation”. In 2016 compulsive masturbation, in a clinical setting, is synonymous with compulsive porn use. An excerpt:

Our data confirm previous observations that psychiatric comorbidities, especially mood, anxiety, and personality disorders, are the rule rather the exception for people with compulsive sexual behaviors. 21, 22, 23, 24 However, EM could be associated with a non-specific anxious activation.

Men’s pornography consumption in the UK: prevalence and associated problem behaviour (2016) – Excerpt:

Those who reported pornography addiction were much more likely to engage in a variety of risky antisocial behaviours, including heavy drinking, fighting, and weapon use, using illegal drugs gambling and viewing illegal images to name but a few. They also reported poorer physical and psychological health.

Mood changes after watching pornography on the Internet are linked to symptoms of Internet-pornography-viewing disorder (2016) – Excerpt:

Internet-pornography-viewing disorder (IPD) is considered one type of Internet-use disorder. For IPD’s development, it was assumed theoretically that a dysfunctional use of Internet pornography to cope with depressive mood or stress might be considered as a risk factor. Data showed that tendencies towards IPD were associated negatively with feeling generally good, awake, and calm and positively with perceived stress in daily life and using Internet pornography for excitation seeking and emotional avoidance. Moreover, tendencies towards IPD were negatively related to mood before and after Internet-pornography use.

Problematic sexual behavior in young adults: Associations across clinical, behavioral, and neurocognitive variables (2016) – Individuals with Problematic Sexual Behaviors (PSB) exhibited several neuro-cognitive deficits and psychological problems. A few excerpts:

This analysis also indicated that PSB was associated with worse quality of life, lower self-esteem, and higher rates of comorbidities across several disorders. Furthermore, the PSB group showed deficits across several neurocognitive domains, including motor inhibition, spatial working memory, and an aspect of decision making. Thus, it is possible that PSB gives rise to a host of secondary problems, ranging from alcohol dependence and depression to deteriorations in quality of life and self-esteem.

A Preliminary Model of Motivation for Pornography Consumption Among Men Participating in Zoophilic Virtual Environments (2016) – Maybe this study shouldn’t be included in this list, but here it is. Excerpts:

This study aimed to confirm the factorial validity of the Pornography Consumption Inventory in an online sample of men with sexual interest in animals, and to construct an association model between motivations for pornography consumption and the following psychological variables: depression, sexual impulsiveness, and strength of sexual interest in animals. Results support the 4-factor model of the Pornography Consumption Inventory. Sexual impulsiveness was positively associated with the emotional avoidance, excitement seeking, and sexual pleasure factors. Depression and sexual impulsiveness were positively correlated.

Problematic internet pornography use: The role of craving, desire thinking, and metacognition (2017) – While not so clear in the text, this study found correlations between cravings for pornography and scores on depression & anxiety questionnaires (negative affect). An excerpt:

The present study tested the metacognitive model of desire thinking and craving for problematic pornography use, and expanded upon the same model to include negative affect related to desire thinking.

Effect of internet on the psychosomatic health of adolescent school children in Rourkela – A cross-sectional study (2017) – Excerpts:

Visiting porn sites were associated with interest in sex, low mood, lack of concentration, and unexplained anxiety.

Pornography was significantly associated with several psychological problems in adolescents. Due to the structural immaturity of the adolescent brain and relative inexperience, they are unable to process the myriad nature of sexual content online which may lead to attention problems, anxiety, and depression.

Pornography Use and Loneliness: A Bi-Directional Recursive Model and Pilot Investigation (2017) – Excerpt:

Theoretically and empirically, we examine loneliness as it relates to pornography use in terms of pornography’s relational scripting and its addictive potential. Results from our analyses revealed significant and positive associations between pornography use and loneliness for all three models. Findings provide grounds for possible future bidirectional, recursive modeling of the relation between pornography use and loneliness.

How Abstinence Affects Preferences (2016) [preliminary results] – Excerpts from the article:

Results of the First Wave – Main Findings

  1. The length of the longest streak participants performed before taking part in the survey correlates with time preferences. The second survey will answer the question if longer periods of abstinence render participants more able to delay rewards, or if more patient participants are more likely to perform longer streaks.
  2. Longer periods of abstinence most likely cause less risk aversion (which is good). The second survey will provide the final proof.
  3. Personality correlates with length of streaks. The second wave will reveal if abstinence influences personality or if personality can explain variation in the length of streaks.

Results of the Second Wave – Main Findings

  1. Abstaining from pornography and masturbation increases the ability to delay rewards
  2. Participating in a period of abstinence renders people more willing to take risks
  3. Abstinence renders people more altruistic
  4. Abstinence renders people more extroverted, more conscientious, and less neurotic

Viewing Sexually Explicit Media and Its Association with Mental Health Among Gay and Bisexual Men Across the U.S. (2017) – Excerpts

Gay and bisexual men (GBM) have reported viewing significantly more sexually explicit media (SEM) than heterosexual men. There is evidence that viewing greater amounts of SEM may result in more negative body attitude and negative affect. However, no studies have examined these variables within the same model.

Greater consumption of SEM was directly related to more negative body attitude and both depressive and anxious symptomology. There was also a significant indirect effect of SEM consumption on depressive and anxious symptomology through body attitude. These findings highlight the relevance of both SEM on body image and negative affect along with the role body image plays in anxiety and depression outcomes for GBM.

Pornography use in sexual minority males: Associations with body dissatisfaction, eating disorder symptoms, thoughts about using anabolic steroids and quality of life (2017) – Excerpts:

A sample of 2733 sexual minority males living in Australia and New Zealand completed an online survey that contained measures of pornography use, body dissatisfaction, eating disorder symptoms, thoughts about using anabolic steroids and quality of life.

Almost all (98.2%) participants reported pornography use with a median use of 5.33 hours per month. Multivariate analyses revealed that increased pornography use was associated with greater dissatisfaction with muscularity, body fat and height; greater eating disorder symptoms; more frequent thoughts about using anabolic steroids; and lower quality of life.

Young Australians’ use of pornography and associations with sexual risk behaviours (2017) – Excerpt:

Younger age at first pornography viewing was associated with … recent mental health problems.

Understanding and predicting classes of college students who use pornography (2017) – Porn use is related to poorer self-esteem. Excerpt:

As expected, results indicated participants that reported higher self-esteem scores had lower odds being placed in the Complex or Auto-Erotic Porn User Classes compared with the class of Porn Abstainers. In one notable study, Nelson et al. (2010) suggested that higher levels of self-worth were related to lower pornography use patterns. The present study’s findings reinforce the negative correlation of self-esteem and pornography use. Due to the present study only offering statistical associations we cannot state cause and effect, however, our results corroborate that they are linked in some capacity.

Gender difference, class level and the role of internet addiction and loneliness on sexual compulsivity among secondary school students (2017) – Compulsive porn use strongly linked to loneliness. Excerpts:

Correlational analyses revealed significant direct relationships between internet addiction and sexual compulsivity. This suggests that the more secondary school children are addicted to internet use, the more they are predisposed to sexual compulsive behaviours

It was further revealed that a significant direct relationship between loneliness and sexual compulsivity exists. This means that the more secondary school students feel lonely or isolated, the more they are preoccupied with sexual thoughts that could predispose them to sexual compulsive behaviours.

Current situation of pornography use in senior college male students and its correlation with their depression-anxiety-pressure (2017) – Excerpts:

Objective – To investigate the current situation of pornography use among male seniors from Chongqing colleges and universities, and to analyze the correlation of pornography use with negative emotions.
In the cohort, 99.98% students had exposed to pornographic information, and 32.2% of them had a tendency to addiction. The distribution of negative emotions in the senior students was positively correlated with pornography exposure time, frequency of use, duration and addiction. After adjustment with physical activity and sleep quality, the frequency of pornography use was still positively correlated with the scores of depression, anxiety and stress.

Consequences of Pornography Use (2017) – Excerpts:

The objective of this study is to obtain a scientific and empirical approximation to the type of consumption of the Spanish population, the time they use in such consumption, the negative impact it has on the person and how anxiety is affected when it is not possible to access to it. The study has a sample of Spanish internet users (N = 2.408). Methods: An 8-item survey was developed through an online platform that provides information and psychological counselling on the harmful consequences of pornography consumption. To reach diffusion among the Spanish population, the survey was promoted through social networks and media.

The results show that one third of the participants had suffered negative consequences in family, social, academic or work environment. In addition, 33% spent more than 5 hours connected for sexual purposes, using pornography as a reward and 24% had anxiety symptoms if they could not connect.

Relationships between Exposure to Online Pornography, Psychological Well-Being and Sexual Permissiveness among Hong Kong Chinese Adolescents: a Three-Wave Longitudinal Study (2018) – Longitudinal study found that porn use was related to depression, lower life satisfaction and permissive sexual attitudes. Excerpts:

As hypothesized, adolescents’ exposure to online pornography was associated with depressive symptoms, and was in line with previous studies (e.g., Ma et al. 2018; Wolak et al. 2007). Adolescents, who were intentionally exposed to online pornography, reported a higher level of depressive symptom. These results are in line with past studies on the negative impact of internet usage on psychological well-being, such as depressive symptoms (Nesi and Prinstein 2015; Primack et al. 2017; Zhao et al. 2017), self-esteem (Apaolaza et al. 2013; Valkenburg et al. 2017), and loneliness (Bonetti et al. 2010; Ma 2017). Additionally, this study provides empirical support for the long-term effects of intentional exposure to online pornography on depression over time. This suggests that early intentional exposure to online pornography might lead to later depressive symptoms during adolescence…..

The negative relationship between life satisfaction and exposure to online pornography was in line with earlier studies (Peter and Valkenburg 2006; Ma et al. 2018; Wolak et al. 2007). The present study shows that adolescents who are less satisfied in their lives at Wave 2 may lead them to be exposed to both types of pornographic exposure at Wave 3.

The present study shows the concurrent and longitudinal effects of permissive sexual attitudes on both types of exposure to online pornography. As expected from previous research (Lo and Wei 2006; Brown and L’Engle 2009; Peter and Valkenburg 2006), sexually permissive adolescents reported higher levels of exposure to both types of online pornography.

Gender Differences in Escapist Uses of Sexually Explicit Internet Material: Results from a German Probability Sample (2018) – Excerpts:

Drawing on a representative survey of German internet users, we therefore analyze how women and men use SEIM to satisfy escapist needs. Lower life satisfaction, the lack of a committed relationship, and feelings of loneliness contribute to predicting the frequency of using SEIM among men. Loneliness likewise fosters the consumption of SEIM among women, yet the effect is less pronounced. For female internet users, consumption of SEIM even increases in committed relationships and rather indicates a comparably high level of life satisfaction than dissatisfaction with life circumstances. Gender hence substantially moderates the connection between need structures and the consumption of SEIM.

The above study said that higher porn use in women is related to both greater loneliness and greater life satisfaction. Very odd finding. When evaluating the research, it’s important to know that a relatively small percentage of all coupled females regularly consumes internet porn. Large, nationally representative data are scarce, but the General Social Survey reported that only 2.6% of married women had visited a “pornographic website” in the last month. The question was only asked in 2002 & 2004 (see Pornography and Marriage, 2014). The takeaway is that studies reporting positive or neutral effects on relationship satisfaction (or other variables) are deriving this correlation from the small percentage of females who are: (1) regular porn users, and, (2) in long-term relationships (perhaps 3-5% of adult females). With small samples inconsistent findings are bound to occur.

Understanding Associations between Personal Definitions of Pornography, Using Pornography, and Depression (2018) – Greater porn use was correlated with higher levels of depression, even after controlling for all sorts of variables, including perceptions of porn. Excerpts:

Therefore, even after controlling for a variety of demographic factors, impulsivity, pornography acceptance, and the general perception of sexual content as pornographic, the accumulated total viewing of sexual content was still significantly linked to higher levels of depressive symptoms as found in previous studies.

Results suggested that viewing sexual material that is not considered pornography was consistently associated with more depressive symptoms. In other words, when individuals tended to regularly view images of women without any clothing and did not perceive this as pornography, they were more likely to report higher depressive symptoms. Conversely, when individuals reported not viewing such images and believed such images to be pornographic, reports of depressive symptoms tended to be lower.



Studies finding links between porn use and poorer cognitive outcomes:

Exposure to Sexual Stimuli Induces Greater Discounting Leading to Increased Involvement in Cyber Delinquency Among Men (2017) – In two studies exposure to visual sexual stimuli resulted in: 1) greater delayed discounting (inability to delay gratification), 2) greater inclination to engage in cyber-deliquency, 3) greater inclination to purchase counterfeit goods & hack someone’s Facebook account. Taken together this indicates that porn use increases impulsivity and may reduce certain executive functions (self-control, judgment, foreseeing consequences, impulse control). Excerpt:

These findings provide insight into a strategy for reducing men’s involvement in cyber delinquency; that is, through less exposure to sexual stimuli and promotion of delayed gratification. The current results suggest that the high availability of sexual stimuli in cyberspace may be more closely associated with men’s cyber-delinquent behavior than previously thought.

Trading Later Rewards for Current Pleasure: Pornography Consumption and Delay Discounting (2015) The more pornography that participants consumed, the less able they were to delay gratification. This unique study also had porn users reduce porn use for 3 weeks. The study found that continued porn use was causally related to greater inability to delay gratification (note that the ability to delay gratification is a function of the prefrontal cortex). Excerpt from the first study (median subject age 20) correlated subjects’ pornography use with their scores on a delayed gratification task:

“The more pornography that participants consumed, the more they saw the future rewards as worth less than the immediate rewards, even though the future rewards were objectively worth more.”

Put simply, more porn use correlated with less ability to delay gratification for larger future rewards. In the second part of this study researchers assessed the subjects’ delayed discounting 4 weeks later and correlated with their porn use.

“These results indicate that continued exposure to the immediate gratification of pornography is related to higher delay discounting over time.”

A second study (median age 19) was performed to assess if porn use causes delayed discounting, or the inability to delay gratification. Researchers divided current porn users into two groups:

  1. One group abstained from porn use for 3 weeks,
  2. A second group abstained from their favorite food for 3 weeks.

All participants were told the study was about self-control, and they were randomly chosen to abstain from their assigned activity. The clever part was that the researchers had the second group of porn users abstain from eating their favorite food. This ensured that 1) all subjects engaged in a self-control task, and 2) the second group’s porn use was unaffected. At the end of the 3 weeks, participants were involved in a task to assess delay discounting. Important note: While the “porn abstinence group” viewed significantly less porn than the “favorite food abstainers,” most did not completely abstain from porn viewing. The results:

“As predicted, participants who exerted self-control over their desire to consume pornography chose a higher percentage of larger, later rewards compared to participants who exerted self-control over their food consumption but continued consuming pornography.”

The group that cut back on their porn viewing for 3 weeks displayed less delay discounting than the group that simply abstained from their favorite food. Put simply, abstaining from internet porn increases porn users’ ability to delay gratification. From the study:

Thus, building on the longitudinal findings of Study 1, we demonstrated that continued pornography consumption was causally related to a higher rate of delay discounting. Exercising self-control in the sexual domain had a stronger effect on delay discounting than exercising self-control over another rewarding physical appetite (e.g., eating one’s favorite food).

The take-aways:

  1. It wasn’t exercising self-control that increased the ability to delay gratification. Reducing porn use was the key factor.
  2. Internet porn is a unique stimulus.
  3. Internet porn use, even in non-addicts, has long-term effects.

[This one also appears above in first section of this page, and is repeated here due to its “delayed discounting” finding.] How Abstinence Affects Preferences (2016) [preliminary results] – Excerpts from the article:

Results of the First Wave – Main Findings

  1. The length of the longest streak participants performed before taking part in the survey correlates with time preferences. The second survey will answer the question if longer periods of abstinence render participants more able to delay rewards, or if more patient participants are more likely to perform longer streaks.
  2. Longer periods of abstinence most likely cause less risk aversion (which is good). The second survey will provide the final proof.
  3. Personality correlates with length of streaks. The second wave will reveal if abstinence influences personality or if personality can explain variation in the length of streaks.

Results of the Second Wave – Main Findings

  1. Abstaining from pornography and masturbation increases the ability to delay rewards
  2. Participating in a period of abstinence renders people more willing to take risks
  3. Abstinence renders people more altruistic
  4. Abstinence renders people more extroverted, more conscientious, and less neurotic

Self-reported differences on measures of executive function and hypersexual behavior in a patient and community sample of men (2010) – “Hypersexual behavior” was correlated with poorer executive function (arisng primarily from the prefrontal cortex). An excerpt:

Patients seeking help for hypersexual behavior often exhibit features of impulsivity, cognitive rigidity, poor judgment, deficits in emotion regulation, and excessive preoccupation with sex. Some of these characteristics are also common among patients presenting with neurological pathology associated with executive dysfunction. These observations led to the current investigation of differences between a group of hypersexual patients (n = 87) and a non-hypersexual community sample (n = 92) of men using the Behavior Rating Inventory of Executive Function-Adult Version  Hypersexual behavior was positively correlated with global indices of executive dysfunction and several subscales of the BRIEF-A. These findings provide preliminary evidence supporting the hypothesis that executive dysfunction may be implicated in hypersexual behavior.

Pornographic picture processing interferes with working memory performance (2013) – German scientists have discovered that Internet erotica can diminish working memory. In this porn-imagery experiment, 28 healthy individuals performed working-memory tasks using 4 different sets of pictures, one of which was pornographic. Participants also rated the pornographic pictures with respect to sexual arousal and masturbation urges prior to, and after, pornographic picture presentation. Results showed that working memory was worst during the porn viewing and that greater arousal augmented the drop. An excerpt:

Results contribute to the view that indicators of sexual arousal due to pornographic picture processing interfere with working memory performance. Findings are discussed with respect to Internet sex addiction because working memory interference by addiction-related cues is well known from substance dependencies.

Working memory is the ability to keep information in mind while using it to complete a task or deal with a challenge. It helps people hold their goals in mind, resist distractions and inhibit impulsive choices, so it’s critical to learning and planning. A consistent research finding is that addiction-related cues hinder working memory, which is a function of the prefrontal cortex.

Sexual Picture Processing Interferes with Decision-Making Under Ambiguity (2013) – Study found that viewing pornographic imagery interfered with decision making during a standardized cognitive test. This suggests porn use might affect executive functioning, which is a set of mental skills that help with meeting goals. These skills are controlled by an area of the brain called the prefrontal cortex.

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.

Arousal, working memory capacity, and sexual decision-making in men (2014) – Excerpts:

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.

Early Adolescent Boys’ exposure to Internet pornography: Relationships to pubertal timing, sensation seeking, and academic performance (2015) – This rare longitudinal study (over a six-month period) suggests that porn use decreases academic performance. Excerpt:

Moreover, an increased use of Internet pornography decreased boys’ academic performance six months later.

Getting stuck with pornography? Overuse or neglect of cybersex cues in a multitasking situation is related to symptoms of cybersex addiction (2015) – Subjects with a higher tendency towards porn addiction performed more poorly of executive functioning tasks (which are under the auspices of the prefrontal cortex). A few excerpts:

We investigated whether a tendency towards cybersex addiction is associated with problems in exerting cognitive control over a multitasking situation that involves pornographic pictures. We used a multitasking paradigm in which the participants had the explicit goal to work to equal amounts on neutral and pornographic material. We found that participants who reported tendencies towards cybersex addiction deviated stronger from this goal.

The results of the current study point towards a role of executive control functions, i.e. functions mediated by the prefrontal cortex, for the development and maintenance of problematic cybersex use (as suggested by Brand et al., 2014). Particularly a reduced ability to monitor consumption and to switch between pornographic material and other contents in a goal adequate manner may be one mechanism in the development and maintenance of cybersex addiction

Problematic sexual behavior in young adults: Associations across clinical, behavioral, and neurocognitive variables (2016) – Individuals with Problematic Sexual Behaviors (PSB) exhibited several neuro-cognitive deficits. These findings indicate poorer executive functioning (hypofrontality) which is a key brain feature occurring in drug addicts. A few excerpts:

From this characterization, it is be possible to trace the problems evident in PSB and additional clinical features, such as emotional dysregulation, to particular cognitive deficits…. If the cognitive problems identified in this analysis are actually the core feature of PSB, this may have notable clinical implications.

Effects of Pornography on Senior High School Students, Ghana. (2016) – Excerpt:

The study revealed that majority of the students admitted to watching pornography before. Furthermore, it was observed that majority of them agreed that pornography affects students’ academic performance negatively…

Executive Functioning of Sexually Compulsive and Non-Sexually Compulsive Men Before and After Watching an Erotic Video (2017) – Exposure to porn affected executive functioning in men with “compulsive sexual behaviors,” but not healthy controls. Poorer executive functioning when exposed to addiction-related cues is a hallmark of substance disorders (indicating both altered prefrontal circuits and sensitization). Excerpts:

This finding indicates better cognitive flexibility after sexual stimulation by controls compared with sexually compulsive participants. These data support the idea that sexually compulsive men do not to take advantage of the possible learning effect from experience, which could result in better behavior modification. This also could be understood as a lack of a learning effect by the sexually compulsive group when they were sexually stimulated, similar to what happens in the cycle of sexual addiction, which starts with an increasing amount of sexual cognition, followed by the activation of sexual scripts and then orgasm, very often involving exposure to risky situations.


 

 

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