The Cognitive Costs of Regulating Implicit Impulses
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Individuals who are members of stigmatized groups, such as lesbians, gays, and bisexuals, have cognitive deficits in situations that are threatening or hostile to the group in question. Stereotype threat and stigma threat research suggests these cognitive deficits occur in people who identify with stigmatized groups as a result of anxiety. Yet regulating impulses may also create cognitive deficits because it is effortful and diminishes the ability to perform cognitive tasks. This study investigates whether the regulation of undesired sexual impulses causes cognitive deficits in threatening situations even in people who do not identify with a stigmatized group. An implicit measure of sexual attraction to the same gender was administered to participants who self-identified as heterosexual (n = 317). Sexual impulses were primed by asking participants to write about an attractive person of the same or opposite sex or a neutral object. An interaction was found between implicit same sex attraction and the salience of same sex attraction in predicting self-control performance. Participants with a higher level of implicit same sex attraction performed worse on a self-control task after writing about the attractiveness of a same sex person. People with implicit same sex attraction who identify as heterosexual may have more difficulty with tasks requiring self-control or regulatory abilities as well as worse performance outcomes in work and school settings.
Flores, Sarah A. (2011). The Cognitive Costs of Regulating Implicit Impulses. Master's thesis, Texas A&M University. Available electronically from