Exposure to sexualized media content and selective attention for sexual cues: An experimental study

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This study examined whether exposure to sexualized media influences the subconscious process of attention allocation to subsequently encountered stimuli. One hundred twenty-three participants (61 females) between 18-23 years (M age = 19.99 years) watched a 3-minute video clip containing either neutral, sexually more explicit, or sexually less explicit imagery, before completing a dot detection task measuring selective attention for explicitly displayed sexual stimuli and a word search task measuring attention towards hidden sexual cues. Results of the dot detection task indicated that participants in all conditions were slower to detect the dot in trials including sexual stimuli, suggesting absorption by these stimuli. Results of the word search task indicated that participants in the two sexual video conditions, compared to participants in the neutral video condition, were quicker to detect a sexual word in the matrix, albeit only if they completed this task before the dot detection task. There were no differences in the number of sexual words found between video conditions. Our findings point out the importance of studying effects of sexualized media exposure on subconscious cognitive processes in young people, as such effects can provide us insights into how sexualized media content is processed and how sexual schemas are formed and strengthened.
Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)357-364
Number of pages8
JournalComputers in Human Behavior
Publication statusPublished - 2014


  • SSexualized media content
  • Selective attention
  • Attention bias
  • Dot detection
  • Word search task
  • Cognitive process


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