Late positive potential to explicit sexual images associated with the number of sexual intercourse partners

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Abstract

Risky sexual behaviors typically occur when a person is sexually motivated by potent, sexual reward cues. Yet, individual differences in sensitivity to sexual cues have not been examined with respect to sexual risk behaviors. A greater responsiveness to sexual cues might provide greater motivation for a person to act sexually; a lower responsiveness to sexual cues might lead a person to seek more intense, novel, possibly risky, sexual acts. In this study, event-related potentials were recorded in 64 men and women while they viewed a series of emotional, including explicit sexual, photographs. The motivational salience of the sexual cues was varied by including more and less explicit sexual images. Indeed, the more explicit sexual stimuli resulted in enhanced late positive potentials (LPP) relative to the less explicit sexual images. Participants with fewer sexual intercourse partners in the last year had reduced LPP amplitude to the less explicit sexual images than the more explicit sexual images, whereas participants with more partners responded similarly to the more and less explicit sexual images. This pattern of results is consistent with a greater responsivity model. Those who engage in more sexual behaviors consistent with risk are also more responsive to less explicit sexual cues.

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