“Conscious and Non-Conscious Measures of Emotion: Do They Vary with Frequency of Pornography Use?”

Posted on May 1, 2017, in Addiction, Brain Science, Relationships, Research

Publication Information

Title: Brain Structure and Functional Connectivity Associated with Pornography Consumption
Author: Kunaharan, Sajeev, Shannon Bosshard, Sean Halpin, Thiagarajan Sitharthan,, and Peter Walla.


Increased pornography use has been a feature of contemporary human society, with technological advances allowing for high speed internet and relative ease of access via a multitude of wireless devices. Does increased pornography exposure alter general emotion processing? Research in the area of pornography use is heavily reliant on conscious self-report measures. However, increasing knowledge indicates that attitudes and emotions are extensively processed on a non-conscious level prior to conscious appraisal. Hence, this exploratory study aimed to investigate whether frequency of pornography use has an impact on non-conscious and/or conscious emotion processes. Participants (N = 52) who reported viewing various amounts of pornography were presented with emotion inducing images. Brain Event-Related Potentials (ERPs) were recorded and Startle Reflex Modulation (SRM) was applied to determine non-conscious emotion processes. Explicit valence and arousal ratings for each image presented were also taken to determine conscious emotion effects. Conscious explicit ratings revealed significant differences with respect to “Erotic” and “Pleasant” valence (pleasantness) ratings depending on pornography use. SRM showed effects approaching significance and ERPs showed changes in frontal and parietal regions of the brain in relation to “Unpleasant” and “Violent” emotion picture categories, which did not correlate with differences seen in the explicit ratings. Findings suggest that increased pornography use appears to have an influence on the brain’s non-conscious responses to emotion-inducing stimuli which was not shown by explicit self-report.
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