Skip to main content
Open Access Publications from the University of California

UC Berkeley

UC Berkeley Previously Published Works bannerUC Berkeley

Viewing sexual images is associated with reduced physiological arousal response to gambling loss.


Erotic imagery is one highly salient emotional signal that exists everywhere in daily life. The impact of sexual stimuli on human decision-making, however, has rarely been investigated. This study examines the impact of sexual stimuli on financial decision-making under risk. In each trial, either a sexual or neutral image was presented in a picture categorization task before a gambling task. Thirty-four men made gambling decisions while their physiological arousal, measured by skin conductance responses (SCRs), was recorded. Behaviorally, the proportion of gambling decisions did not differ between the sexual and neutral image trials. Physiologically, participants had smaller arousal differences, measured in micro-siemen per dollar, between losses and gains in the sexual rather than in the neutral image trials. Moreover, participants' SCRs to losses relative to gains predicted the proportion of gambling decisions in the neutral image trials but not in the sexual image trials. The results were consistent with the hypothesis that the presence of emotionally salient sexual images reduces attentional and arousal-related responses to gambling losses. Our results are consistent with the theory of loss attention involving increased cognitive investment in losses compared to gains. The findings also have potential practical implications for our understanding of the specific roles of sexual images in human financial decision making in everyday life, such as gambling behaviors in the casino.

Many UC-authored scholarly publications are freely available on this site because of the UC's open access policies. Let us know how this access is important for you.

Main Content
For improved accessibility of PDF content, download the file to your device.
Current View