And Science Marches on:
Possible IgNobel candidate:
Men behaving badly, single-handedly
Marc AbrahamsTuesday November 22, 2005, The Guardian
When a young man masturbates, exactly how distracted does he get? An experiment performed on students at the University of California, Berkeley aimed to find out. Full details are in a study that will be published in the Journal of Behavioral Decision Making. Dan Ariely, of the Massachusetts Institute of Technology, and George Loewenstein, of Carnegie Mellon University, in Pittsburgh, describe their arousing achievement in dry, formal terms: "We examine the effect of sexual arousal, induced by self-stimulation, on judgments and hypothetical decisions made by male college students."
The scientists begin their report by pointing out that "sexual motivation plays a direct or indirect role in wide-ranging social interactions and in considerable economic activity." Pornography alone, they say, takes in more revenues in the United States than the three largest professional sports (football, basketball and baseball) combined.
Having established that the topic is of value, Ariely and Loewenstein get right to the action.
They explain how they recruited 35 students, offering to pay each a small fee for the effort of masturbating while answering a survey. Each student was given a laptop computer with a keypad "designed to be operated easily using only the non-dominant hand."
Some of the volunteers had instructions to answer the questions "while in their natural, presumably not highly aroused, state"[HAHAHAHA - gotta' be kiddin', right?]. Others "were first asked to self-stimulate themselves, and were presented with the same questions only after they had achieved a high but sub-orgasmic level of arousal."
The computer screen displayed "an 'arousal thermometer' with regions colored from blue to red representing increasing levels of arousal. Two keys on the keypad allowed the user to move the probe on the arousal meter to indicate their momentary level of arousal. The panel on the top-left occupied the largest part of the screen, displaying diverse erotic photographs."
The screen also showed the long series of survey questions. Some asked about the attractiveness of different sexual activities, items and opportunities. Among them: women's shoes; a 12-year-old girl; an animal; a 50-year-old woman; a man; and an extremely fat person.
Other questions probed the risks the volunteer would take in order to obtain sexual gratification.
The volunteers were instructed to press the computer's tab key if they ejaculated. None reported doing so. [HAHAHA, again]
Ariely and Loewenstein say their results are "striking" and more than confirm what most people believe about young men as a group - that when aroused, they (1) become sexually attracted to things otherwise offputting; (2) grow more willing to engage in morally questionable behaviour that might lead to sex; and (3) are more likely to have unprotected sex.
"[Our] study shows that sexual arousal influences people in profound ways," they write. "Efforts at self-control that involve raw willpower are likely to be ineffective." This is a dig at theorists - the ones who advise people to just say no - from experimentalists who are unafraid to get their hands dirty. [HAHAHA - too rich for words]
· Marc Abrahams is editor of the bimonthly magazine Annals of Improbable Research (www.improbable.com), and organiser of the Ig Nobel Prize