Peer-reviewed critiques of Prause et al., 2015

8) Online Porn Addiction: What We Know and What We Don’t—A Systematic Review (2019)

Excerpt critiquing Prause’s 2 EEG studies: Steele et al., 2013 & Prause et al., 2015 (citation 105 is Steele, citation 107 is Prause):

Evidence of this neural activity signalizing desire is particularly prominent in the prefrontal cortex [101] and the amygdala [102,103], being evidence of sensitization. Activation in these brain regions is reminiscent of financial reward [104] and it may carry a similar impact. Moreover, there are higher EEG readings in these users, as well as the diminished desire for sex with a partner, but not for masturbation to pornography [105], something that reflects also on the difference in erection quality [8]. This can be considered a sign of desensitization. However, Steele’s study contains several methodological flaws to consider (subject heterogeneity, a lack of screening for mental disorders or addictions, the absence of a control group, and the use of questionnaires not validated for porn use) [106]. A study by Prause [107], this time with a control group, replicated these very findings. The role of cue reactivity and craving in the development of cybersex addiction have been corroborated in heterosexual female [108] and homosexual male samples [109].

COMMENTS: The above critique states that Prause’s 2015 EEG replicated the findings from her 2013 EEG study (Steele et al.): Both studies reported evidence of habituation or desensitization, which is consistent with the addiction model (tolerance). Let me explain.

It’s important to know that Prause et al., 2015 AND Steele et al., 2013 had the same “porn addicted” subjects. The problem is that Steele et al.had no control group for comparison! So Prause et al., 2015 compared the 2013 subjects from Steele et al., 2013 to an actual control group (yet it suffered from the same methodological flaws named above). The results: Compared to controls “individuals experiencing problems regulating their porn viewing” had lower brain responses to one-second exposure to photos of vanilla porn. The ACTUAL results of Prause’s two EEG studies:

  1. Steele et al., 2013: Individuals with greater cue-reactivity to porn had less desire for sex with a partner, but not less desire to masturbate.
  2. Prause et al., 2015: “Porn addicted users” had less brain activation to static images of vanilla porn. Lower EEG readings mean that the “porn addicted” subjects were paying less attention to the pictures.

A clear pattern emerges from the 2 studies: The “porn addicted users” were desensitized or habituated to vanilla porn, and those with greater cue-reactivity to porn preferred to masturbate to porn than have sex with a real person. Put simply they were desensitized (a common indication of addiction) and preferred artificial stimuli to a very powerful natural reward (partnered sex). There is no way to interpret these results as falsifying porn addiction. The findings support the addiction model.

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  1. […] In reality, the findings of Prause et al. 2015 align perfectly with Kühn & Gallinat (2014), which found that more porn use correlated with less brain activation in response to pictures of vanilla porn. Prause et al. findings also align with Banca et al. 2015. Moreover, another EEG study found that greater porn use in women correlated with less brain activation to porn. Lower EEG readings mean that subjects are paying less attention to the pictures. Put simply, frequent porn users were desensitized to static images of vanilla porn. They were bored (habituated or desensitized). See this extensive YBOP critique. Nine peer-reviewed papers agree that this study actually found desensitization/habituation in frequent porn users (consistent with addiction): Peer-reviewed critiques of Prause et al., 2015 […]

  2. […] Peer-reviewed critiques of Prause et al., 2015 […]

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