Moral incongruence and addiction: A registered report


Diagnostic guidelines for compulsive sexual behavior disorder note that moral distress related to sexual behavior is not sufficient to receive the diagnosis. Recent work has questioned the uniqueness of moral distress in predicting self-reported feelings of sexual addiction, demonstrating that other so-called addictive behaviors (e.g., gaming and internet use) are well-predicted by moral disapproval of those behaviors. The present work tested if moral incongruence (the interaction of behavioral frequency and moral disapproval of a behavior) is uniquely related to sexual behavior, or if it generalizes to other addictions as well. This work used a large sample (N = 4,363) involving a representative sample of the U.S. population (n = 2,806) and a sample of sports-wagering individuals in the U.S. (n = 1,557). Interactions between moral disapproval and behavioral frequency were tested for several behaviors (i.e., pornography use, gambling, and several substances). The interaction of behavioral frequency and behavioral disapproval (i.e., moral incongruence) predicted self-reported feelings of addiction to pornography and gambling. Moral incongruence was consistently unrelated to self-reported feelings of addiction to tobacco, illicit substances, and prescription drugs. Results regarding alcohol and marijuana were inconclusive. Moral incongruence is clearly a salient factor in understanding compulsive sexual behavior, and it appears to also be salient to gambling disorder. Though moral incongruence does not seem relevant to some substances (i.e., nicotine, prescription drug misuse, or illicit drug use), further research is needed regarding the effect of moral incongruence on self-reported feelings of addiction to alcohol and marijuana. (PsycInfo Database Record (c) 2022 APA, all rights reserved).

Psychology of Addictive Behaviors, 1(1)
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Joshua B. Grubbs, Ph.D.
Joshua B. Grubbs, Ph.D.
Scientist, Professor, Speaker

My research interests include behavioral addiction, morality, and personality.