Home » Gary Wilson Discusses The Great Porn Experiment (Transcript)

Gary Wilson Discusses The Great Porn Experiment (Transcript)

Gary Wilson at TEDxGlasgow

Gary Wilson, the author of Your Brain On Porn, TED talks on The Great Porn Experiment ….

TRANSCRIPT: 

Gary Wilson – Author, Your Brain On Porn

Inspired by the last talker, I’m going to have a little song about Internet porn. No, just kidding.

The widespread use of Internet porn is one of the fastest moving most global experiment ever unconsciously conducted. Nearly every young guy with Internet access becomes an eager test subject.

Canadian researcher Simon Lajeunesse found that most boys seek pornography by age 10. Driven by a brain that is suddenly fascinated by sex. Now, users perceive Internet porn as far more compelling than porn of the past. Why is that? Unending novelty.

In this Australian experiment, it’s not mere nudity but novelty that gets arousals skyrocketing. Subjects watch 22 porn displays. See that spike? That’s where searchers switch to porn the guys hadn’t seen before.

What happened? The erections in their brains fired up. Why all the excitement? Mother nature likes to keep a male fertilizing willing females as long as any new ones are around.

In that top line the ram, he needs more and more time to make with the same old you. But if you keep switching females — the bottom line — well she’s not the same. He can get the job done in 2 minutes flat and keep going until he’s utterly exhausted. This is known as the Coolidge effect.

Without the Coolidge effect there would be no Internet porn. This old mammalian program the Coolidge effect perceives each novel female on a guy’s screen as a genetic opportunity. To keep a guy fertilizing the screen his brain releases the “go get it” neurochemical dopamine for each novel made or image. Eventually the ram will tire but as long as the guy can keep clicking he can keep going as so will his dopamine.

With internet porn a guy can see more hot babes in 10 minutes than his ancestors could see in several lifetimes. The problem is he has a hunter-gather brain. A heavy user brain rewires itself to this genetic bonanza so it carefully becomes associated with this porn harem. Such behaviors that are associated with this are being alone, voyeurism, clicking, searching, multiple tabs fast-forwarding, constant novelty shock and surprise.

As one young guy once asked: Are we the first generation to masturbate left handed? Now, real sex, in contrast, is courtship, touching, being touched, smells, pheromones, emotional connection, interaction with a real person.

Now, what happens when our guy finally gets with a real mate. Well, researchers don’t know much about the effects of Internet porn for several reasons.

In 2009, when Lajeunesse tried to study porn’s impact he couldn’t find any college age males who weren’t using it. So the first serious dilemma is that studies have no control groups.

Now, this creates a huge blind spot. Imagine if all guys started smoking at age 10 and there were no groups that didn’t. We would think that lung cancer is normal for all guys. Undaunted by his lack of non-users Lajeunesse asked 20 male students: Is Internet porn affecting you or your attitude towards women?

They answered: “No, I don’t think so.”

But they’ve been using it for about decade then pretty much non-stop. This is like asking a fish what it thinks about water? Which bring us to a second problem.

Researchers haven’t asked porn users about the symptoms Zimbardo described in “The Demise of Guys.” Arousal addiction symptoms are easily mistaken for a such thing as ADHD, social anxiety, depression, concentration problems, performance anxiety, OCD and a host of others.

Now, healthcare providers often assume that these conditions are primary perhaps the cause of addiction but never really the result of an addiction. As a consequence they often medicate these guys without really inquiring about if they have an Internet addiction.

Guys never realize that they could overcome these symptoms simply by changing their behavior.

Now, the third problem is it’s hard to believe that sexual activity can cause addiction because sex is healthy. But Internet porn is not sex. Internet porn is as different from real sex as today’s video games are from checkers. Watching the screen full of naked body parts won’t automatically protect one from arousal addiction.

In this Dutch study — here’s the title — they found that in fact of all activities on the Internet porn has the most potential to become addictive.

Here’s why.

This ancient program, the reward circuit, evolved to drive us towards natural rewards such as sex, bonding and food. As a consequence extreme versions of natural rewards have a unique ability to capture us. For example: high-calorie foods or hot novel babes give us extra dopamine. Too much dopamine though can override our natural satiation mechanisms.

For example: give rats unlimited access to junk food and almost all of them will binge to obesity. This is also why 4 out of 5 Americans are overweight and about half of those are obese. That is addicted to food.

Now, in contrast the natural rewards drugs such as cocaine or alcohol only hook about 10% of users whether they are rats or humans. This binge mechanism for food or sex was once an evolutionary advantage. In essence, it is getting it while the getting is good.

Now, you can think of wolves packing away 20 pound of meat per kill or it’s mating season and you’re the alpha male. What if mating season never ends? All those hits of dopamine can tell your brain to do two things.

First they say: “Man, you’ve hit the evolutionary jackpot.” Second, they kick in a molecular switch called Delta-FosB. I know it is a fancy word, but dopamine kicks in Delta-FosB and that starts to accumulate in the brain’s reward circuit.

Now, with excess chronic consumption of drugs or natural rewards, this buildup of Delta-FosB starts to alter the brain and promote the cycle of binging and craving.

If the binging continues the Delta-FosB builds up and it can lead to brain changes seen in all addicts. So the dominos are excess consumption, excess dopamine, Delta-FosB, brain changes.

One of the first changes is a numbed pleasure response. It kicks in so everyday pleasures really don’t satisfy a porn addict. At the same time other physical changes in the brain make the brain hyper-reactive to porn. Everything else in porn users life is sort of boring, but porn is super exciting.

Finally his willpower arose as its frontal cortex changes. I can’t emphasize this enough. All addictions share these same brain changes and the same molecular switch that kicks them in — Delta-FosB.

Now scientists have used brain scans to measure these changes in drug addicts. Up-here these scans show a reduced pleasure response in drug addicts. These and several other changes have also been seen in gambling addicts, food addicts, very recently in video game addicts and now in internet addicts.

I apologize for filling up the slide with brain studies, just notice the dates but I want you to know that they exist. So far all brain research points only in one direction. Constant novelty at the click can cause addiction. We know this because when scientist examined former Internet addicts they found that these brain changes were reversing themselves.

Unfortunately, none of these studies isolate porn users, but they do include them. Here’s the game changer.

At last we have a group of guys who are no longer using Internet porn. That’s right! Heavy users are voluntarily giving it up by the thousands. These guys are the missing control group in the great porn experiment. They’re showing experts what changing one single variable can do. I call it “The Resurrection of Guys” as opposed to “the Demise of Guys.”

Now, before I continue, probably you want to know why any porn loving guy in his right mind would give it up. Two words: erectile dysfunction. Internet porn is killing young men’s sexual performance.

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