Open Access Te Herenga Waka-Victoria University of Wellington
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Love on the Brain: The Impact of Sexual Arousal on Sexual Decision-making

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posted on 2022-09-19, 07:23 authored by Savio, Joseph

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.


Copyright Date


Date of Award



Te Herenga Waka—Victoria University of Wellington

Rights License

Author Retains Copyright

Degree Discipline

Forensic Psychology

Degree Grantor

Te Herenga Waka—Victoria University of Wellington

Degree Level


Degree Name

Master of Science

ANZSRC Socio-Economic Outcome code

200401 Behaviour and health

ANZSRC Type Of Activity code

4 Experimental research

Victoria University of Wellington Item Type

Awarded Research Masters Thesis



Victoria University of Wellington School

School of Psychology


Eisenbarth, Hedwig