The Initiation and Development of Cybersex Addiction: Individual Vulnerability, Reinforcement Mechanism and Neural Mechanism (2019): Excerpt analyzing Steele et al., 2013

Link to full study –  The Initiation and Development of Cybersex Addiction: Individual Vulnerability, Reinforcement Mechanism and Neural Mechanism (2019)

Excerpt critiquing Steele et al., 2013:

First, Steele et al. (2013) found that individuals with viewing of visual sexual stimuli (VSS) induced a greater amplitude of the P300 component when viewing erotic images than when viewing neutral images. The results seem to confirm the notion that online pornography leads to an individual’s hunger for online pornography, but Steele’s research lacks normal subjects for reference. In addition, LPP components appear later than P300. Late positive potential is associated with the stimulation of significant material processing and better reflects the individual’s desire to watch pornographic material (Hilton, 2014) (the greater the individual’s desire to watch pornography, the greater the LPP volatility). In this regard, Prause and Steele et al. (2015) added individuals who viewed less pornographic material to VSS individuals in the improvement experiment, and found that subjects who had excessively viewed pornographic material problems and reported more sexual desire were watching erotic images. The induced LPP amplitude is smaller, and this result seems to be contrary to the idea that online pornography-related clues induce a sense of craving. Actually, some scholars have pointed out that the erotic images used in the study by Prause and Steele may be an addiction in itself. Consumer goods, not addictive cues (Gola et al., 2017; Gola, Wordecha, Marchewka, & Sescousse, 2016). Therefore, according to the Theory of Incentive-Salience Theory (IST) in drug addiction, as the degree of addiction deepens, the cues of addiction can induce the addicted desire of addicted individuals to become more and more addicted. (Berridge, 2012; Robinson, Fischer, Ahuja, Lesser, & Maniates, 2015), but the addiction to the addicted individuals has gradually decreased, and the decrease in LPP amplitude indicates that CA may be addicted to drugs.

Comments: Steele et al., 2013 was touted in the media as evidence against the existence of porn/sex addiction. Not so. Steele et al. 2013 actually lends support to the existence of both porn addiction and porn use down-regulating sexual desire. How so? The study reported higher EEG readings (relative to neutral pictures) when subjects were briefly exposed to pornographic photos. Studies consistently show that an elevated P300 occurs when addicts are exposed to cues (such as images) related to their addiction.

In line with the Cambridge University brain scan studies, this EEG study also reported greater cue-reactivity to porn correlating with less desire for partnered sex. To put it another way – individuals with greater brain activation to porn would rather masturbate to porn than have sex with a real person. Shockingly, study spokesperson Nicole Prause claimed that porn users merely had “high libido,” yet the results of the study say the exact opposite (subjects’ desire for partnered sex was dropping in relation to their porn use).

Together these two Steele et al. findings indicate greater brain activity to cues (porn images), yet less reactivity to natural rewards (sex with a person). That”s sensitization & desensitization, which are hallmarks of an addiction. Note – numerous other peer-reviewed papers agree with the current paper: Peer-reviewed critiques of Steele et al., 2013

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