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    Watching Internet Porn Ruins Your Memory

    Bad news, everyone. The greatest convenience the Internet has brought us, something our predecessors could never have imagined– 24/7 free porn at the click of a button–has been stained by science. Our collective porn habit was sure to bring upon our heads a day of reckoning, but until now we were all happy to avert our eyes from the blinding light of the truth of Internet smut and keep them locked on the screen instead. But now, my friends, the time has come to face the groovy porn music.

    A group of German researchers are reporting a positive correlation between the amount of porn you watch and the power to hold important things in your memory. So while masturbating before you're scheduled to give that important presentation to your boss might sound like a great way to take the edge off before stepping into the boardroom, don't do it. While you're mopping up, the porn you just watched is wiping your memory!

    The study, published in the Journal of Sex Research, sought answers to why some people complain about "missing sleep, forgetting appointments, disregarding partnerships, and overlooking job responsibilities" after soaking their minds in the warm glow of Internet porn. Researchers are coming at it from the notion that Internet porn causes "negative life consequences" and "a disadvantage in decision making." 

    In the experiment, 28 straight guys at the University of Duisburg-Essen, where the researchers work, looked at a bunch of photos containing positive, negative, neutral, and pornographic stimuli. A neutral photo is a person, say, working at a desk; a negative one showed a mugging or a guy brandishing a knife; a positive one showed people laughing and scoring touchdowns; and pornographic images showed... well, you'd know it if you saw it.

    Researchers streamed the images in front of the subjects, not in any particular order, and asked them to punch a button confirming or denying whether each image they saw matched the quality of the previous image. For example, they'd see a photo of a mugging, then a photo of sex, and have to click a button for 'No,' because the quality isn't the same (the first is a negative stimulus; the second is a porno stimulus). But in 25 trials, dudes were distracted by porno images, and got the simple Yes/No questions wrong 72% of the time. (Yikes!) 

    The conclusion the authors made is that the abundance of Internet porn, and a person's ability to click through it at a rapid-fire pace, interferes with a person's "working memory," meaning recalling simple stuff, reasoning, problem solving, and basic learning. Another finding: Dudes tend to go masturbate after seeing porn, even if it was in a laboratory setting. Not only that, but the subjects were shown 100 nudey photos and asked to rank their sexiness, and guess what? The images each person found most arousing were also the ones that blocked their memory the most effectively.

    Summed up: "The main result of the study is worse [working memory] performance for pornographic pictures compared to neutral, negative, and positive stimuli," the researchers write in their article. 

    The scary part, as the researchers note, is that because watching porn hurts our abilities to reason, we wouldn't stop even if we knew it was bad for us. It's like a downward spiral–something like addiction. 

    "On a speculative level, one might argue that if subjects’ attention to sexual stimuli and subsequent sexual arousal interfered with executive functioning and decision making, then they might be less able to monitor and control their own Internet sex use," the researchers note.

    The implications of routinely feasting your eyes on porn extend way beyond simple brain farts.  The ubiquity of free Internet porn has allowed us to double click our way to easy rewards. And for the kids who start exploring smut during that impressionable pre-teen stage of cognitive development, porn can literally lay down trenches in their synapses that can be hard to un-lay as they get older. 

    Gary Wilson does a great job of explaining the circumstances and consequences in his TedX talk from May:

    Sex drives of regular porn watchers -- guys, especially -- are tanking, and when they're young, like college-age. Imagine being in college and having porned so much porn that your pornstick doesn't porn anymore! It's to the point where experts, including the German researchers, consider such conditions symptoms of porn addictions. And that is one of the strangest, and most worrisome, takeaways of the building body of porn research: Watching porn cheaply and easily does have an effect on your brain, and the results are rarely positive.

    Topics: sex, porn, research

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