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Brain Study: Impulsivity Linked to Loss of Control With Internet Porn

By April 24, 2018 No Comments

There's a vast amount of research on the harmful effects of pornography, and it's important that this information is accessible to the public. Weekly, we highlight a research study that sheds light on the expanding field of academic resources that showcase porn's harms. These studies cover a wide range of topics, from the sociological implications of pornography to the neurological effects of porn-consumption.


The full study can be accessed here.

Trait and State Impulsivity in Males with Tendency Towards Internet-Pornography-Use Disorder

Authors: Stephanie Antonsa, Matthias Brand
Published: December 2017

Peer-Reviewed Journal: Addictive Behaviors 79 (2018) 171–177

Background

While most people use the internet in a functional and healthy way, there are some individuals who experience loss of control over their internet (e.g. internet porn) use, leading to negative consequences in psychological, social, and work domains. This phenomenon is called internet-use disorder (IUD). The term internet-pornography-use disorder (IPD) is used for a specific type of IUD which is characterized by a loss of control with respect to the consumption of pornography on the internet. Current research indicates etiological similarities between specific IUDs and substance-use disorders.

A shared vulnerability factor is impulsivity. Impulsivity is a multidimensional construct which refers to the tendency to act prematurely and without foresight. It can be differentiated between trait and state impulsivity. Trait impulsivity is a stable personality characteristic which is mostly assessed by self-report questionnaires. State impulsivity is rather determined by environmental variables and is generally assessed with psychological tasks which measure inhibitory control such as the go/no-go or stop-signal task (SST) (Bari & Robbins, 2013).

The aim of the current study is to explore how trait and state impulsivity are related to Internet Pornography Disorder (IPD). To understand the factors involved in the development of IPD, it is especially relevant to investigate individuals with varying degrees in symptom severity of IPD. Following prior studies, which investigated trait and state impulsivity in other specific IUDs, we expected symptom severity of IPD in an analog sample to be associated with trait and state impulsivity (increased impulsive action tendencies and reduced inhibitory control ability). We assume that especially when individuals are confronted with pornographic material, state impulsivity would be related to IPD because of craving responses. Based on the I-PACE model, we further hypothesized that individuals with higher trait impulsivity combined with increased state impulsivity should suffer from more symptoms of IPD.

Methods

Fifty heterosexual males participated in this study. State impulsivity was measured with reaction times in a modified stop-signal task. Each participant conducted two blocks of this task which included neutral and pornographic pictures. Moreover, current subjective craving, trait impulsivity, and symptom severity of IPD were assessed using several questionnaires.

Results

Results indicate that trait impulsivity was associated with higher symptom severity of Internet Pornography Disorder. Especially those males with higher trait impulsivity and state impulsivity in the pornographic condition of the stop-signal task as well as those with high craving reactions showed severe symptoms of IPD.

The results indicate that both trait and state impulsivity play a crucial role in the development of Internet Pornography Disorder. In accordance with dual-process models of addiction, the results may be indicative of an imbalance between the impulsive and reflective systems which might be triggered by pornographic material. This may result in loss of control over the internet porn use albeit experiencing negative consequences.

The full study can be accessed here.

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