Tuesday, October 25, 2005

"Erotic images can turn you blind"

Researchers have finally found evidence for what good Catholic boys have known all along – erotic images make you go blind. The effect is temporary and lasts just a moment, but the research has added to road-safety campaigners’ calls to ban sexy billboard-advertising near busy roads, in the hope of preventing accidents.

The new study by US psychologists found that people shown erotic or gory images frequently fail to process images they see immediately afterwards. And the researchers say some personality types appear to be affected more than others by the phenomenon, known as “emotion-induced blindness”.

David Zald, from Vanderbilt University in Nashville, Tennessee, and Marvin Chun and colleagues from Yale University in Connecticut, showed hundreds of images to volunteers and asked them to pick a specific image from the rapid sequence. Most of the images were landscape or architectural scenes, but the psychologists included a few emotionally charged images, portraying violent or sexually provocative scenes.

The closer these emotionally charged images occurred prior to the target image, the more frequently people failed to spot the target image, the researchers found.

“We observed that people failed to detect visual images that appeared one-fifth of a second after emotional images, whereas they can detect those images with little problem after neutral images,” Zald says....

And some people are more vulnerable than others. The study assessed participants using a personality questionnaire, rating them according to their level of “harm avoidance”. Those scoring highly were more fearful, careful and cautious; those scoring low were more carefree and more comfortable in difficult or dangerous situations.

The researchers found that those with low harm avoidance scores were better able to stay focused on a target image than those with high harm avoidance scores.

“People who are more harm avoidant may not be detecting negative stimuli more than other people, but they have a greater difficulty suppressing that information,” Zald suggests.

More @ New Scientist

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