Defeat Lust & Pornography A man worried that porn is hurting his intelligence.
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Does Watching Porn Make You Dumber?

Last Updated: February 22, 2024

Does porn make you stupid? It might sound like a silly question. Or it might sound like an old wives’ tale that prudes would invent to keep kids from looking at porn—like the idea that masturbating too much can make you go blind. Raising this concern might even seem offensive to some.

But many people ask this question because they feel that their porn use affects their overall intelligence. Furthermore, even old wives’ tales often contain at least a grain of truth. For example, although it’s rare, there are documented cases of certain sexual activities causing “valsalva retinopathy,” i.e., temporary blindness.1 So it’s worth trying to understand what’s going on when someone asks this question. To do this, we need to look at the discoveries that neuroscience and psychology have made regarding pornography’s impact on intelligence.

The Relationship Between Porn and Brainpower

We’ve written at length about the effects of porn on the brain, but it’s worth mentioning related to the question of intelligence. Cutting-edge neuroscientific research has found that porn literally reshapes the brain. Multiple studies suggest that watching pornography may shrink the parts of the brain responsible for decision-making and motivation.2

In practical terms, this means that watching porn often leads to dumb decisions—even for very smart people. We hear many stories of people risking successful careers to continue their porn habit. (See Porn at Work: The Consequences of Risky Browsing). I’ve spoken with students failing their Ph.D. programs because they couldn’t stop watching porn. There are even cases of porn habits escalating to illegal activity, such as downloading child sex abuse material.

So then, one big reason that someone might feel less intelligent from watching porn is that porn could be damaging their brain.

Mental Health-Related Issues and Pornography

Mental health is a somewhat different concern than intelligence. But poor mental health can hurt your ability to think rationally. And numerous studies have examined the relationship between porn consumption and mental health.

We have cataloged this research in our article Why Quitting Porn Will Improve Your Mental Health and So Much More. Some of the potential effects on mental health that we’ve discovered are:

For someone experiencing these mental health issues related to porn, their thinking capacity will be diminished, so they may feel they’ve lost some IQ points.

Porn’s Effect on Memory and Mental Clarity

Research suggests that excessive porn consumption may impact memory and mental clarity. A study comparing porn-addicted teenagers to non-addicted individuals found a reduction in verbal memory in the addicted group. We look at this and other research in Does Porn Cause Memory Loss?

Prolonged exposure to explicit content can impair cognitive function and contribute to difficulties in concentration and focus. Nicholas Carr’s bestseller, The Shallows: What the Internet is Doing to Our Brains, explores how excessive internet use, including pornography consumption, harms the ability to think deeply and retain information. If you’re someone whose memory or clarity has been affected by pornography, you might feel like porn is making you dumber.

Porn’s Effect on Emotional Intelligence

Dr. Eddie Capparucci is a licensed sex addiction therapist who regularly treats men dealing with porn addiction. He says, “I estimate nine out of ten men who I work with in my private practice have extremely low emotional intelligence (EQ).”

At least one study has explored the relationship between porn usage and emotional intelligence. Pornography was correlated to a diminished “ability to adjust one’s emotions and behaviors to meet changing circumstances and contexts.”3

Implications for Social and Relational Intelligence

Emotional intelligence has massive implications for how people relate to one another. Porn doesn’t just affect your own feelings, it can change the way you relate to those around you. Studies show that porn can lower empathy and desensitize people to sexual violence.

We have written at length on porn and relationships. There are many ways that watching porn hurts relationships—especially marriages. It seems that porn damages your ability to relate to other people in meaningful ways.

So, Does Watching Porn Make You Stupid?

So, there’s little evidence to suggest that watching porn lowers your IQ. However, as we’ve seen there are plenty of ways it does affect your intelligence. And this helps us understand why so many people ask, “Is porn making me stupid?” Porn can be particularly damaging when it comes to making wise decisions involving porn, and its effects on your emotional intelligence and ability to relate to others.

If you’ve suffered from the impact of porn on your intelligence in any of these ways, there’s good news: You can reverse the effect of porn on your brain. When you get rid of porn, your brain can rewire itself. You can regain your mental sharpness and clarity.

What do you need to do next? If you’re new here, check out our post, How to Quit Porn: 6 Essential Steps, and find out how to get started. If you want to learn more about the research into pornography, check out our Porn Stats page.


1Michaels L, Tint NL, Alexander P. Postcoital visual loss due to valsalva retinopathy. BMJ Case Rep. 2014 Oct 23;2014:bcr2014207130. doi: 10.1136/bcr-2014-207130. PMID: 25342034; PMCID: PMC4208123.

2Takeuchi H, Taki Y, Asano K, Asano M, Sassa Y, Yokota S, Kotozaki Y, Nouchi R, Kawashima R. Impact of frequency of internet use on development of brain structures and verbal intelligence: Longitudinal analyses. Hum Brain Mapp. 2018 Nov;39(11):4471-4479. doi: 10.1002/hbm.24286. Epub 2018 Jun 28. PMID: 29956399; PMCID: PMC6866412.

3Capurso M, Federici S, Palomba R, D’Urzo E. Pornography use, sexual behaviours, and emotional intelligence in Italian adolescents. 2020. Psicologia della Salute. 2020 Aug:71-96. doi:10.3280/PDS2020-002004.

  1. Not at all, It depends how you treat it

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