Effects of alcohol intoxication and autonomic arousal on delay discounting and risky sex in young adult heterosexual men

Tyler B. Wray, Jeffrey S. Simons, Stephen A. Maisto

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

26 Scopus citations


Objectives: The relationship between alcohol use and risky sexual behavior is complex and depends on psychological and environmental factors. The alcohol myopia model predicts that, due to alcohol's impact on attention, the behavior of intoxicated individuals will become increasingly directed by salient cues. Autonomic arousal (AA) may have a similar effect on attention. Experiential delay discounting (DD) may be increased by both alcohol consumption and AA due to their common effects and may mediate the relationship between these conditions and risky sex. Methods: This study employed a 3 (alcohol, placebo, control). ×. 2 (high, low arousal) experimental design to examine the effects of acute alcohol intoxication and AA on experiential delay discounting, subjective sexual arousal, and risky sex. Results: Path models revealed complex results that only partially supported study hypotheses. Ratings of subjective sexual arousal did not differ across either beverage or arousal conditions. DD was also unrelated to any study variable. However, subjective sexual arousal was positively related to risky sexual intentions. Alcohol intoxication was also positively associated with increased unprotected sex intentions, consistent with past studies. Conclusions: These results affirm the role of subjective sexual arousal and alcohol intoxication in risky sexual decision-making, yielding effect sizes similar to comparable past studies. The lack of differences across autonomic arousal groups also suggests that effects of attentional myopia may be behavior-specific. Failure to replicate effects of alcohol intoxication on DD also suggests reservation regarding its involvement in alcohol-involved risky sex.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)9-13
Number of pages5
JournalAddictive Behaviors
StatePublished - Mar 1 2015


  • Alcohol
  • Condoms
  • Drinking behavior
  • Sexual behavior
  • Unsafe sex

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Medicine (miscellaneous)
  • Clinical Psychology
  • Toxicology
  • Psychiatry and Mental health


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