Former Master student Clinical Psychology Tamara Oosterwijk has won the GAP thesis prize 2017 with her thesis entitled 'The emotional and physiological effects of a disgusting smell on sexually aroused men'. GAP Thesis Prize is an initative of the Groningen Psychology Alumni association and was awarded during the Psychology Alumni Day.
Summary thesis 'The emotional and physiological effects of a disgusting smell on sexually aroused men'
Background and Objectives: Coercive sexual acts are endorsed more by men who are sexually aroused. Since experiencing disgust has been related to sexual dysfunction, disgust might inhibit sexual arousal (SA) and be of value in preventing sexual violence. The present study examined whether an aversive smell was able to reduce SA in men.
Method: While watching a pornographic video men were exposed to puffs of a highly aversive smell to induce disgust and affect SA (n = 42), or a control-smell (n = 36). Physiological (EMG and penile circumference measurement) and subjective measurements were taken.
Results: The smell in the experimental condition caused SA to differ significantly from the control condition. Physiological SA was attenuated in the experimental-condition compared to the control condition and subjective SA decreased more in the experimental than in the control condition. Disgust sensitivity did not moderate relationships between disgust and SA in the experimental condition.
Limitations: A relatively small sample size caused the study to not have sufficient power in some analyses. Also ethical concerns warranted the use of a highly diluted version of the smell which may have led to less consistent and less strong findings than would be expected to be found for the undiluted smell.
Conclusions: The current study showed that disgust negatively affects both subjective and physiological SA in men. The negative effect of disgust on penile response, strengthens the idea that disgust might also hinder behavioural actions motivated by SA, since penile response has been linked to behavioural responses. Further research needs to replicate these findings and study such behavioural implications, also on account of disgust’s potential use as self-defence-agent.
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