Why Online Porn May Make You Forget
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Though some people find porn entertaining, they don't necessarily remember what they've seen. That's because viewing Internet pornography may interfere with short-term memory, according to new research.

The study is the first to examine the influence that processing pornographic pictures has on working memory. The part of the brain responsible for keeping information in the mind while using it to complete a task, working memory is critical for understanding, reasoning, problem solving and decision making.

German researchers asked 28 men — all heterosexual, and averaging 26 years of age — to look at a number of computer images. Some images were pornographic and some were nonsexual. The nonsexual images included pictures of people doing a number of activities, such as laughing, playing sports or carrying a weapon.

As the volunteers viewed the pictures, they touched a "yes" or "no" key to indicate whether or not the picture they were seeing was the same as one they had seen four slides previously.

The men logged a significantly greater number of incorrect answers when they viewed the porn than when they saw the nonsexual images.  On average, they answered correctly 67 percent of the time when they viewed pornographic pictures but 80 percent of the time when they saw the nonsexual pictures.  

Their recollection of porn was poorer even as the men acknowledged feeling higher levels of sexual arousal and an increased urge to masturbate when they looked at the pornographic pictures than when they viewed the nonsexual images.   

"Sexual arousal interferes with working memory, an important facet of executive functioning," said study author Christian Laier, a graduate student studying under psychologist Matthias Brand at the University of Duisburg-Essen in Germany.

The study was published in November in the Journal of Sex Research.

According to the researchers, the findings could help psychologists understand why some people with Internet pornography addictions forget to sleep, miss appointments, shirk job responsibilities and neglect relationships.  "Sexual arousal and its impacts on cognitive processes might explain parts of these negative effects," the researchers wrote.

Previous research has linked the processing of pornographic pictures with areas of the brain responsible for emotion, arousal and attention.

Because the current study focused solely on heterosexual men, it is impossible to say whether the findings would apply to gay men or to women. "This study is a first step," Laier said. "Our results need to be tested with respect to gender and sexual orientation to verify."

Pass It On: Viewing porn may affect short-term memory.

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