Conscious Processing of Sexual Information: Interference Caused by Sexual Primes


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Abstract

The concept Sexual Content-Induced Delay (SCID) refers to a hesitancy in decision making related to erotic material (Geer & Bellard, 1996; Geer & Melton, 1997). Empirical evidence about SCID stems from lexical decision tasks. Our previous studies also showed SCID effects in sex versus neutral categorization tasks in which pictures were used. In these tasks, recognition of sexual pictures is delayed when preceded by consciously presented sexual primes. In the current study, 2 manipulations were added to the categorization task to investigate underlying information processing mechanisms of SCID. Firstly, the appraisal process was influenced by varying the instructions. Secondly, primes with nonsexual emotional content were added to test the specificity of the SCID effect. Thirty-seven undergraduates were asked to categorize sexual and neutral pictures that were primed by sexual, threatening, and neutral primes. Participants ignored or focussed prime content dependent on 2 different instructions. Results showed that the SCID effect only emerged when sexual primes were ignored; however, threatening primes also decelerated recognition of sexual pictures after the ignore instruction. Results of the focus instruction were qualitatively different, that is, participants recognized sexual pictures faster when primed sexually. It was suggested that SCID can be interpreted as the activation of regulatory modules by emotional stimuli in the stage of elicitation of emotional response. In contrast, when the sexual system is already activated, it appears that decisions regarding sexual information are facilitated.

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