Fun fact about competing stimuli: Pair-bonding mammals are more susceptible to substance addictions than other mammals – unless they are already settled in a pair bond. Once established, a pair bond can actually reduce the risk of addiction. It makes an artificial competing “high” comparatively less appealing. Thus, in today’s enticement-heavy environment, it makes sense to form and sustain a healthy pair bond.
At the same time, footloose pair bonders who are still fancy-free are vulnerable. They can more easily get hooked on artificial substitutes. If that happens they may ultimately find real relationships comparatively less rewarding.
Do online erotica, sex toys, dating apps and other artificial stimuli have the potential to interfere with human pair bonds at a neurobiological level? Already dozens of studies correlate the use of such stimuli with reduced sexual and relationship satisfaction.
The research below provides examples of the pair-bonding mechanism, its protective gifts, and its vulnerabilities.
Dr. Heike Melzer discusses the issue of competing stimuli in this TEDx talk. Click “CC” to turn on subtitles.