Thursday, February 02, 2012

Should I use condoms for sex? The millisecond scan.

This item caught my eye, since I spend the winter months each year living in the center of the gay Wilton Manors ghetto of Fort Lauderdale, FL., where the boys hook up at a fast and furious rate. Many base a decision on whether to use condoms on their 'intuition' of whether a potential partner is HIV positive. Renner et al. find that this guessing is very rapid and based on a few fairly simple facial trait characteristics (that in fact have not been shown to have any relationship to actual HIV status).
Research indicates that many people do not use condoms consistently but instead rely on intuition to identify sexual partners high at risk for HIV infection. The present studies examined neural correlates for first impressions of HIV risk and determined the association of perceived HIV risk with other trait characteristics. Participants were presented with 120 self-portraits retrieved from a popular online photo-sharing community ( Factor analysis of various explicit ratings of trait characteristics yielded two orthogonal factors: (1) a ‘valence-approach’ factor encompassing perceived attractiveness, healthiness, valence, and approach tendencies, and (2) a ‘safeness’ factor, entailing judgments of HIV risk, trustworthiness, and responsibility. These findings suggest that HIV risk ratings systematically relate to cardinal features of a high-risk HIV stereotype. Furthermore, event-related brain potential recordings revealed neural correlates of first impressions about HIV risk. Target persons perceived as risky elicited a differential brain response in a time window from 220–340 ms and an increased late positive potential in a time window from 350–700 ms compared to those perceived as safe. These data suggest that impressions about HIV risk can be formed in a split second and despite a lack of information about the actual risk profile. Findings of neural correlates of risk impressions and their relationship to key features of the HIV risk stereotype are discussed in the context of the ‘risk as feelings’ theory.

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