Love on the Brain: The Impact of Sexual Arousal on Sexual Decision-making
Does sexual arousal predict riskier sexual decision-making? A study by Ariel and Lowenstein (2006) first investigated this relationship and found that sexual arousal significantly increased sexually risky and aggressive behaviour. The primary aim of our study was to replicate the findings of Ariel and Lowenstein (2006) using both male and female participants (N = 91). Our study also investigated the role of trait impulsivity and sexual decision-making, as well as examining the physiological and self-report concordance of arousal. Sexually explicit video clips as well as hypothetical romantic scenarios were used to evaluate the effects of sexual arousal on sexual risk-taking intentions. Additional anger, amusement and neutral conditions were used as comparison conditions. The findings from this study suggests that sexual arousal impacted sexual decision-making but to a lesser degree than what was found in Ariely & Loewenstein (2006). Impulsivity was also shown to be a significant factor within this relationship as individuals higher in trait impulsivity, self-reported riskier sexual decisions. Physiological and self-report measures showed no concurrency. Taken together, these findings suggest that in scenarios where both men and women are sexually aroused, they may lower their inhibition and experience impaired decision-making. This effect becomes further compounded if individuals are also high in trait impulsivity. This interaction may have a negative impact during sexual encounters and be a key contributor to the STI and sexual violence pandemic.