Do thinking styles play a role in whether people pathologise their pornography use?

Duffy, Athena (2016) Do thinking styles play a role in whether people pathologise their pornography use? DClinPsy thesis, University of Nottingham.

[img] PDF (Amendments_DCP_1516_RPV_4218250_13451714_Thesis_Volume_One) (Thesis - as examined) - Repository staff only - Requires a PDF viewer such as GSview, Xpdf or Adobe Acrobat Reader
Download (2MB)


Introduction: The concept of pornography addiction, although widely accepted, continues to be debated, and as such no diagnostic criteria exist. Opponents and proponents of pornography continue to cite evidence that supports the claim that pornography is either harmful or beneficial, respectively. However, a review of the literature pertaining to pornography use revealed conceptual and methodological shortcomings which limit the conclusions made in the existing literature base. Without adequate research to further our understanding of the complex relationship individuals have with pornography, we risk pathologising or condoning behaviours that are legal and consensual, which may cause distress for some individuals, or even divert attention from deeper issues, such as an individual’s thinking styles and feelings of shame. Researchers acknowledge that people’s relationship with pornography is complex (Hardy, 1998) and individuals experience it in different ways, for example the time spent viewing pornography, the environment in which they view it, who they view it with, and the genre of pornography they watch (Attwood, 2005; Hald & Malamuth, 2008; Malamuth, Addison, & Koss, 2000; Poulsen, Busby, & Galovan, 2013; Reid, Li, Gilliland, Stein, & Fong, 2011). Given that additional variables may be involved when people pathologise their pornography use, particularly rigidity of thinking (Reid et al., 2009), it is worth investigating such variables further to help discern differences between those who pathologise their pornography use and those who do not.

Aims: The overall aim of this study was to explore whether thinking styles impact on the meaning given to pornography use. The primary objective was to compare participants who perceived their pornography use to be problematic (porn addict) with individuals who did not (non-addict) on the following dependent variables: thinking styles, shame, levels of desirability responding, levels of religiosity, and perceived effects of pornography use. As this was an exploratory approach a two-tailed hypothesis was employed. The secondary objective was to capture in-depth qualitative experiences participants had with pornography, and pornography addiction.

Design: This study used a mixed-method sequential explanatory design (MMSE), using questionnaires to collect quantitative data and interviews to collect qualitative data.

Method: Participants (n=265) were recruited from both UK National Health Service (NHS) and non-NHS sites. For non-NHS participants, the questionnaires were made available online and advertised through social media. NHS recruitment occurred at a specialist sexual health clinic and was advertised using posters displayed in relevant clinical areas. The study predominantly employed a maximum-variation sampling technique. This is a purposive sampling technique used for this research to ensure that an eclectic sample of diverse demographics was captured. Quantitative data was collected using a demographic questionnaire and four validated measures; the Inventory of Cognitive Distortions (Yurica & DiTomasso, 2001), the Test of Self-Conscious Affect-3 (Tangney, Dearing, Wagner, & Gramzow, 2000), the Balanced Inventory of Desirable Responding (Paulhus, 1991; 1998), and the Pornography Consumption Effects Scale (Hald & Malamuth, 2008). All interviews were conducted either through the audio function on Skype© or over the telephone.

Results: Participants reported themselves as belonging to one of three groups; addicts, somewhat addicts, or non-addicts. MANOVA analyses revealed that groups significantly differed in their propensity for cognitive distortions, reported effects of their pornography use, the impact of their religious beliefs, and time spent viewing pornography. Significant differences were not found for the shame scales, or for social desirability. Multinomial logistical regression revealed that negative impact of pornography on participants’ lives in general, on their sex life, dysfunctional thinking styles (overall and externalisation of self-worth, magnification and fortune telling, minimisation and arbitrary inferences, and perfectionism), and impact of religious beliefs significantly predicted group membership. Furthermore, regression analysis supported the hypothesis that thinking styles mediated the relationship between time spent viewing pornography and the overall negative impact of pornography. Qualitative results supported these findings, and thinking styles were revealed to influence the discourses participants had regarding pornography. Primary themes identified were participants’ relationship with pornography and perceived causation of pornography addiction, significance of social norms, and impact of expert opinion. Furthermore, although absent in the quantitative findings, the concept of shame was raised as an influential factor in the pathologising of pornography use, thus supporting the notion that a conflict in values, paired with a relatively inflexible cognitive style, may lead to pathologising, and shame will be a product of that process.

Discussion: This study demonstrates the role thinking styles play in how people evaluate their pornography use. Thinking styles both predict whether an individual perceives their pornography use to be problematic or not, and are evident in the discourses people use when discussing their pornography use and the concept of pornography addiction. Specifically, individuals with a propensity for rigid thinking styles are more likely to negatively evaluate their pornography use. Furthermore, the similarities and differences apparent in group comparisons can be understood within a values theoretical framework; it may be that individuals with rigid thinking styles are more likely to endorse particular values that are incongruent with their pornography use behaviours. Conversely, individuals with more flexible thinking styles may be more likely to endorse values which are not incongruent with their pornography use behaviours. This is important from a research and treatment perspective, as it may not be the behaviour itself (pornography use) that is problematic and the target for intervention, but the cognitive framework individuals use in relation to the behaviour. Current treatment offered to those who self-report as pornography addicts often ignore the role of thinking styles and values. In light of this study’s findings, thinking styles should be a focus in future research and treatment as it may help to reduce cognitive dissonance and engender agency.

Item Type: Thesis (University of Nottingham only) (DClinPsy)
Supervisors: das Nair, R.
Dawson, D.
Keywords: Pornography; Addiction; Self-perceived problematic pornography; Thinking styles; Shame; Values
Subjects: W Medicine and related subjects (NLM Classification) > WM Psychiatry
Faculties/Schools: UK Campuses > Faculty of Medicine and Health Sciences > School of Medicine
Item ID: 34251
Depositing User: Duffy, Athena
Date Deposited: 16 Dec 2016 06:40
Last Modified: 19 Oct 2017 16:28

Actions (Archive Staff Only)

Edit View Edit View