When young men were shown erotic pictures, they were more likely to make a larger financial gamble than if they were shown a picture of something scary, such as a snake, or something neutral, such as a stapler, university researchers reported.
The arousing pictures lit up the same part of the brain that lights up when financial risks are taken.
"You have a need in an evolutionary sense for both money and women. They trigger the same brain area," said Camelia Kuhnen, a Northwestern University finance professor who conducted the study with a Stanford University psychologist.
Their research appears in the current edition of the peer-reviewed journal NeuroReport.
The study involved 15 heterosexual men in the 18-26 age range at Stanford University. It focused on the sex and money hub, the V-shape nucleus accumbens, which sits near the base of the brain and plays a central role in what you experience as pleasure.
When that hub was activated by the erotic images, the men were far more likely to bet high on a random chance game that would earn them either a dollar or a dime. Each man made more than 50 gambles under brain scans.