The effect of visual sexual content on the event-related potential

J.J.D.M. van Lankveld*, F.T.Y. Smulders

*Corresponding author for this work

Research output: Contribution to journalArticleAcademicpeer-review


In the present study we investigated the effect of emotional valence and arousal value of non-erotic visual stimuli on event-related potentials. We also directly compared the effects of erotic and non-erotic stimuli of comparable valence and arousal levels. Sixteen sexually functional heterosexual males rated 150 computer screen pictures, selected from the International Affective Picture System, representing five stimulus types differing along dimensions of emotional valence and arousal, and erotic vs. non-erotic content. A positive deflection of the ERP between 300 and 500 ms after stimulus onset (P300) was found to be sensitive to stimulus differences, with positive valence and high arousal resulting in larger P300. Furthermore, the positive slow wave (PSW) between 500 and 750 ms revealed additive effects of valence and arousal value. High arousal and positive valence of the stimuli resulted in larger PSW. Importantly, an interaction effect was absent here. In addition, sexual content led to a larger P300 and PSW than expected on the basis of a mere additive contribution of high arousal and positive valence.
Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)200-208
JournalBiological Psychology
Volume79 (2)
Publication statusPublished - 1 Jan 2008

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