Viewing Porn Cuts Off Part of Brain 'Where Decisions Are Weighed by Morality,' Says Psychologist

(Photo: Reuters/Thomas Peter)

People are incapable of weighing decisions based values and morality when they're watching porn because that part of the brain is turned off, according to Dr. David Greenfield, a psychologist and director of the Center for Internet and Technology Addiction at the University of Connecticut School of Medicine.

"When you're in a sexual arousal process where you're looking at pornography, you're activating limbic parts of the brain," he told VICE. "By doing so, the connection to prefrontal cortex — where decisions are weighed by values and morality — is cut off."

The Christian Post spoke to Greenfield who elaborated more on this point.

"What we find with addiction and when patterns of behavior get out of hand — whether it having to be with porn, sex, drugs, alcohol or gambling — the neural hormonal pathways that project the frontal cortex from the mid-brain seem to cut off," Greenfield told CP.

"The communication that allows us to have a desire or a drive that isn't mediated by the frontal cortex. The frontal cortex sends information back to the hippocampus and says 'remember the last time you did this, this is not going to feel good,' the ability for that circuit to occur is hampered."

Greenfield points to this process being the main reason why addicts continue to return to their impulsive and harmful behavior.

"This is why addicts do the same things over and over again. Because they don't have access or full control over their judgment because their judgment systems are not fully operational," he said.

And while Greenfield feels porn addiction can be harmful, he doesn't necessarily feel that everyone who views it is addicted.

Some experts, such as Morality in Media's Patrick A. Trueman, believe porn addiction threatens marriages. A study published in November of last year backs up this notion and shows that men, aged 18-35, who watch porn are less likely to get married.

"Pornography is a marriage killer, and thus, it has monumental negative ramifications for society's future," Trueman told CP in a previous interview.

"Research has shown for some time that porn use in marriage destroys the marital bond, but now we can see that porn use destroys even the desire to get married," Trueman added.

Steve Harris, Couple and Family Therapy program director at the University of Minnesota, also told CP that he believes pornography has a negative impact on marriages, having seen it "fairly frequently in clinical practice."

"Most couples struggle when porn use is a regular feature in one's individual behavior in the relationship," Harris. said. "It has a negative impact on emotional intimacy, contributes to a consumer mentality regarding one's sexual relationship, and raises questions about fidelity and trust in even very strong relationships."

XXXChurch founder Craig Gross, whose ministry reaches out to people who want to overcome an addiction to pornography, told VICE that it's "easier to have an alcohol or drug problem in the church than a sex or porn problem."

Gross, whose church reaches out to those involved in the porn industry, has gone to around 94 conventions and previously told CP that he's usually well received by attendees, but fellow Christians have been more reluctant to embrace what his church is doing.

The church also uses a free program called x3watch to help those who feel they have an addition to looking at porn stop viewing it by giving "accountability partners" access to what they're viewing on the Internet.

Some secular groups also see porn addiction as a threat to society.

Fight the New Drug, a secular organization dedicated to raising awareness on the dangers or pornography addition, feel educating people on some of these studies and scientific facts is the best way to combat it.

"We feel that education is the strongest tool that we can implement in our society to counteract the negative impact that pornography is having," Clay Olsen, co-founder and executive director of Fight the New Drug told The Christian Post in an interview last July.

"Our belief is that if we can raise awareness on the impacts and harmful effects of pornography not only on the individual neurological and brain impact, but also on relationships in society, many who found themselves or could find themselves experiencing these harmful effects would choose to avoid [porn consumption]."