We humans are pleasure and rewards seeking animals – we must actively seek out the food, hydration and human connection that sustain us. The Zuckerman Sensation Seeking Scale is one framework that looks at the range of the ways we relate to adventure, novelty, risk and boredom.
Developed by psychologist Marvin Zuckerman, Ph.D. in the 1960s, The Zuckerman Sensation-Seeking Scale-V (SSS-V) consists of 40 forced-choice questions designed to assess individual differences in the following four areas:
- Thrill and Adventure Seeking
- Experience Seeking
- Disinhibition & Risk Sensitivity
- Boredom Susceptibility
As you get more honest about what kinds of thrills and experiences you want, and what kinds of risks you are willing to take, you can better shape your life experience to meet your unique personality and proclivities!
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Transcript for Speaking of Sex Podcast Episode 371
Chris Rose (00:00):
Welcome to Speaking of Sex with the Pleasure Mechanics. I’m Chris.
Charlotte Rose (00:04):
Chris Rose (00:06):
We are the Pleasure Mechanics. And on this podcast, we have honest, raw, explicit conversations about sex, love, relationships, bodies, culture, all the things that add up to our experience of sex and pleasure in our day to day lives. We’ve been at it for over 13 years, Charlotte and I. This is episode 371 I believe. We are recording in May, 2020. We haven’t often timestamped our episodes, but we are doing so now because we’re recording amidst the global pandemic and we just want to locate ourselves within that, send love to you wherever you are, whatever waves of loss, grief, boredom, and longing are lapping on your shores. We are feeling you, we’re here with you and we are here for you.
Chris Rose (01:00):
Come on over to pleasuremechanics.com where you will find our complete podcast archive all of our online offerings, including all of our online courses. And because of the pandemic and the vast amounts of change happening in people’s lives, we are offering sliding scale access to those courses. So you can learn couple’s massage or spanking, mindful sex or foreplay, whatever it is that will serve you however we can go deeper with you during this time. Come on over to pleasuremechanics.com/care for the community access codes.
Chris Rose (01:37):
All right, here we go baby. We’re going to talk about sensation seeking. I think I’m going to call this episode desperately seeking sensation because this is one of those, it’s a topic that has been on our list for a long time. And as I was thinking about what can we possibly talk to you that is both relevant for the here and now of the extraordinary circumstances we are in, but also a tool that is evergreen and useful for us and understanding our sexuality and our relationships. And so when I thought about the sensation seeking scale, say that seven times, the sensation seeking scales are really useful tool, a gazing pool perennially, always, but it’s also really relevant right now when our normal lives, our regular lives, our routines have been so vastly interrupted. We can really look at some of these patterns and habits we have with a new fresh eyes and think about what will serve us better. So do you want to lead us in what is the sensation seeking scale?
Charlotte Rose (02:44):
There was a psychology professor in the ’60s, Zuckerman, who created this personality test, the Zuckerman Sensation Seeking Scale, which was designed to assess sensation seeking in four different areas of personality and behavior.
Chris Rose (03:02):
Okay, so sensation seeking meaning like I love massage, I am sensation seeking. Let’s break that down for a second. And I want to just say, this like all other tools, like all other psychology frameworks, it’s just one framework that we can use as a gazing pool, a tool, a lens. This particular one has been used in all sorts of risk assessments and marketing research, but let’s just not give it too much power. It is not a truth. It is a tool. So when we say sensation seeking and a scale of sensation seeking and assessing our kind of place on this spectrum, what does sensation seeking mean? It means something beyond physical sensation on our bodies and it’s a great reminder of how we are as creatures. There is this equilibrium between security and novelty. Between enjoying what is right around us and seeking out not only pleasures, we’re not just pleasure seeking animals. A lot of those pleasures are the pleasures of survival.
Chris Rose (04:13):
We are creatures. We’re not amoebas that gurgle at the bottom of the sea and food just washes over us, right? We have to go seek out our nourishment. We have to go seek out our hydration. We have to go seek out our kinship and connection. So this part of us that goes seeking for newness sensation, and inherently within that there is risk and adventure and thrill. That is the package we’re talking about as sensation seeking creatures. All of us to one degree or another goes out and seeks, goes out and looks for new input, risk, thrill, adventure. And we’re going to talk about that, how it applies to our erotic lives, but also our personalities and proclivities.
Chris Rose (05:05):
So within Zuckerman’s Sensation Seeking Scale, this is tongue twisters with Pleasure Mechanics, Zuckerman’s Sensation Seeking Scale, what are some of the things this tool helps us look up?
Charlotte Rose (05:18):
Zuckerman helps us understand sensation seeking through these four different aspects. The first being thrill and adventure seeking, the second being experience seeking, the third being disinhibition, and the fourth being boredom susceptibility. Okay, now we’re going to talk about what that all means.
Chris Rose (05:42):
I almost think we should go backwards.
Charlotte Rose (05:45):
Chris Rose (05:45):
Because boredom susceptibility, so first notice that each of these quadrants, so how this test is executed, you get 40 forced choice questions. Would you go parachuting, yes or no? They’re not like, well, maybe if the conditions are right, yes or no. And through these 40 questions, they break down your proclivity on each of these skills. So boredom susceptibility. All of us adapt to our current situation and start growing bored and used to the stimuli around us, but some people get more bored more quickly than others.
Chris Rose (06:22):
Where do you fall on that? And this is a great time to notice that because a lot of us have been in the same environment with very little outside stimulation, and some of us are totally okay with that and others are looking for textures on the walls to focus on. So what is your level of boredom susceptibility? And again, in each of these categories, and this is the simplest one, we’re going to try to break it down. So boredom can mean a lot of things. Do you get intellectually bored? Do you get physically bored? Did you get aesthetically bored? Do you get competition bored? What arenas do you get bored in? Because they’re different for each of us. I Chris gets much more intellectually bored. I need ideas and stimulation. I’m like, “Oh, I would do well with going to lectures all the time and I use my time to listen to podcasts and read books.” What is your arena of boredom? I
Charlotte Rose (07:27):
I get physically bored if I am not moving or have not moved for a while or had some new experiences, if that is just stepping outside and being in nature. I really love to have new visual input. Spring is here right now. Watching the leaves grow, the flowers change is really stimulating and nourishing and fulfilling for me.
Chris Rose (07:51):
I’ve heard you walk with thrill over a new shade of blue, right? Not everyone would even notice that there are so many shades of blue. So what in your personality dear listener, what do you seek more of? What do you seek new versions of? Where do you get bored? Okay, so boredom susceptibility.
Charlotte Rose (08:13):
People’s routines and eating the same food, those are other places just to notice how you respond to them. How do you deal with routine boredom?
Chris Rose (08:23):
How much do you thrive within routines versus how much do you love newness? That’s your boredom susceptibility score. So working our way back up is…
Charlotte Rose (08:35):
Now we move into disinhibition.
Chris Rose (08:37):
Charlotte Rose (08:39):
Which is really about risk and how comfortable you are with financial or physical risk.
Chris Rose (08:46):
Well, there are many kinds of risks. So again, let’s break this down. And this is, again, the kinds of questions they ask on the scale is would you bet lots of money without thinking it through? Within our souls, there are so many kinds of risk. And risk, there is a thing of risk of knowing the risks and then choosing to do it anyway. And some people will ruminate about the risks and not take action. Other people will recognize the risks and then go for it really quickly. So that’s the scale of disinhibition.
Charlotte Rose (09:18):
And some will not notice the risk and don’t really care or find that stimulating and go be impulsive and do it anyway, right? Like this is an enormous spectrum.
Chris Rose (09:29):
And in the version of this scale that measures sex risk taking that was really used during HIV studies, they really look at like, how willing are you to have multiple partners sex? How willing are you to have casual sex, anonymous sex, sex without protection? And this is the category I really want to slow down because when we start reflecting on ourselves, we notice there are so many kinds of risks in life. I really became aware of this when I was in a poly, kinky sex community and started getting called out and teased almost as a rule follower because I really believed in safe sex protocol and felt like the rules and minimizing certain risks allowed me to have more fun. If my hands were going to be in 12 people that night, I want to wear gloves. And I don’t really care how you individually think if I’m…
Charlotte Rose (10:28):
Being excessive folk.
Chris Rose (10:29):
Being excessive. But also like the risks of bending rules. When we were like at sex camp up in the woods, I was really like, “Well, what is the retreats policy on marijuana smoking?” And they were like, “Ah, we’re here for sex camp. Be naughty.” So for me, I really love certain kinds of risks. Charlotte and I have moved across the country very, very quickly. So we have high levels of disinhibition with certain parts of our lives, but I would never have unsafe sex or do certain things that would harm, and I’m very low risk on things that would physically harm my body. Things like downhill skiing. I don’t even understand it why someone would choose that level of risk in order for a thrill. And then we’re going to get to thrill, which explains why some people do.
Chris Rose (11:22):
So I’m very low on physical risk, but high on emotional risk. And we have to know ourselves to understand this and to understand how I like to get naughty, right? How do you like to get naughty because some of us, we want to get naughty, but we’re really into the rules. And you need to understand that about yourself so you can pursue the thrills and experiences you want, which is getting us into these next two quadrants. How are you with risk Charlotte? Will you walk us through your assessment of your risk scale?
Charlotte Rose (11:53):
I feel pretty… I don’t think I need a lot of intense risk. I like to have a lot of experiences and I will put my energy in that, but I don’t-
Chris Rose (12:05):
You don’t need or want them to be risky. You’re very into awesome.
Charlotte Rose (12:08):
Chris Rose (12:09):
Charlotte Rose (12:10):
Though I mean-
Chris Rose (12:11):
The milkmaid that will spank you later. And it’s funny though, we say you’re awesome, but when we met, you were an erotic misuse, which is many people would consider a very high risk profession. You were taking the risk of sharing erotic space with strangers, but doing it actually in a very boundaried way so you could take that risk. No wonder we got along.
Charlotte Rose (12:31):
Chris Rose (12:32):
Right, and you and I we’ll go have sex outdoors, but we’ll make sure we have hiked to the farthest place and that it’s a place where there’s only one trail that lets in. We will like safe guard their risk to minimize all possible harm to others. So notice how you relate to risk and what you’ve been taught about risk. Is it safe to take risks? Do you want to take more risks or are you too risky? Do you want to dial that back? How do you relate to the level of risk taking in your life? And you can assess that for yourself. What kinds of risks do you want to take and what actually helps you feel safe to be naughty? So the next category, and then next two kind of motion to each other, but they’re worth unpacking separately. So experience seeking and thrill seeking.
Charlotte Rose (13:27):
So experience seeking is more related to travel, trying new foods, exploring, and then thrill and adventure seeking is more like parachute jumping, like extreme downhill skiing.
Chris Rose (13:43):
We can almost understand this through dopamine and adrenaline, right? So experience seeking is that dopamine driven part of us that’s like, “What’s next? What’s new? What’s novel? What’s changed? I want to go to the new restaurant.” These are the people that follow the blogs to find out what’s opening in town and they show up at the restaurant or they like order the new dish at their favorite restaurant. Experience seekers love travel, they love seeing new things, they love getting new input. Low experience seekers are really okay with a routine. They’d much prefer the very same dish at their very same restaurant. Thank you very much. And that’s okay. You know that about yourself and you find your favorite dishes. And maybe there’s three that you rotate between because the very far end of this can be like stagnancy and fear of change, and then the very far end on the novelty seeking can be like compulsive behavior and dissatisfaction no matter what.
Chris Rose (14:53):
And there’s a lot more to unpack there. I’m doing a deep dive into dopamine. That’s another tongue twister I like, because I find it so fascinating. Like what are these parts of us that are just human and are just expressed through these ranges of behavior? And if we start seeing them as, oh, that’s that part of me that wants to be expressed, you understand why you always want to go to the new restaurant and you can build that in. And in times like this, then what? How are the extreme experience seekers doing amongst us? You and I Charlotte, and I think you have this more and you pulled me into the front of it. And you told me right at the beginning of our relationship, “I don’t want gifts. I want experiences. Don’t buy me a thing, take me somewhere. Plan a trip.”
Chris Rose (15:38):
And we sit around now amidst this sameness. How we have survived is reminiscing. We are going deep into the memory banks and I’ve been playing little games like top three burgers we’ve had in our life, top three breakfasts. And we can name 10. How can we draw upon the experiences we’ve already had and remind ourselves of that as a survival strategy right now? But, yeah, where are you on the experience seeking scale I think is a really important question. And how does that relate to our erotic lives? You can see here the spectrum of people who are just fine with their routine. Like I can have that scripted, same sex for the rest of my life because it’s what works for me. I find it deeply comforting. And if you change it up, it’s like they put cilantro on my favorite soup at that restaurant. I’ve been having it for 10 years. And why is there cilantro? There’s not supposed to be cilantro.
Chris Rose (16:41):
And then there’s people who are like, “I want not only cilantro, galangal and all of the kaffir lime.” There are people that need, want, crave. And if you hit them with a boring same thing, their soul is crushed. Where are you on that scale?
Charlotte Rose (16:59):
And then what is the Venn diagram between the two of you? Because of course that’s so important. One of you may have really different longings or risk or comfort with risk than the other. And how do you work on that together or make space for somebody to have experiences on their own in an area that you feel comfortable with? This is something to really navigate.
Chris Rose (17:19):
Right, so you’re saying not only know thyself, know the people you are in relationship too.
Charlotte Rose (17:24):
Chris Rose (17:24):
I want to get to thrill seeking last and then let’s go into the relationality of this because it’s super important.
Charlotte Rose (17:30):
Chris Rose (17:30):
So the final and fourth quadrant of this, so we’ve done boredom susceptibility, disinhibition, experience seeking, thrill seeking. So there are experiences like going to a new cafe and getting a latte. I know this latte is better than the last. And then there are thrills. There are life’s thrills. Those things that push you past your edge of comfort that are inherently scary, risky, new, and thrilling, thrilling. Adrenaline, the place where fear and excitement and meet, some people channel this through competition. The thrill of beating your personal best. The thrill of going a little bit faster than the next guy. Like the thrill, the adrenaline, the push. Where are you in needing that in your life? And how do you need it? Because again, some of us want this intellectually.
Chris Rose (18:33):
I have walked out into the kitchen in this state and been like, Charlotte, my mind just got blown. Like sometimes I’ll read a sentence and I’ll just stop what I’m doing and feel it working its way through my brain. And the thrill of that is something I live for.
Charlotte Rose (18:48):
It is so important to you.
Chris Rose (18:50):
You couldn’t pay me enough to go downhill skiing, right? But I would jump out of an airplane. And that’s like the weird nuance that kind of makes us interesting and quirky as humans. So how do you relate to thrill? Do you want it intellectually? Do you want it physically? Is it competition? Is it social? Is it like really and pushing your own body? Is it seeing other people push their bodies? Some people like the thrill of being a spectator, right? And this is where I will go to ballet and be like, “I am so glad you have pushed your body this hard. Let me be holed in awe.” But I’m not going to do it. So what kind of thrills do you want? Do you crave? How do you experience thrill?
Charlotte Rose (19:35):
And this is all about understanding and knowing our own constellations of pleasure and joy and fulfillment and satisfaction. We’ve talked about constellations of pleasure in other podcasts, but it’s just so valuable.
Chris Rose (19:49):
It’s actually a concept of mine. It’s one of those things we’ve talked about over years and years and years and then it’s been picked up and I start seeing it. And I think I coined it. If anyone knows differently, let me know. And the idea of constellations of pleasure is there’s these pleasure points, but your specific grouping of those pleasure points and how they relate to each other is what makes you you.
Chris Rose (20:14):
And for me, this is the fascinating thing about each of us as humans. It’s like tell me who you are is a pleasure constellation. And that is so much more interesting to me than… It’s a fascinating way of not only knowing yourself, but others. And this is what gets me into the relationality of this, right? Because if you think of your pleasure constellation and how it thrums in the sky and moves around and again, it changes. Things move and shift. You might do things. And again, in my dopamine deep dive, I will talk to you about how this changes through your lifetime, the risks you’re willing to take change over the course of your lifetime. I’m not willing to take certain risks now as a mother because there’s other things at stake. It’s not just my own things I’m evaluating. So evaluate this for yourself, but then also look at your relationality with this.
Chris Rose (21:06):
So the Venn diagram that we’ve talked about, the Venn diagram of your desires, but then also of your thrill seeking, your risk taking, your inhibitions. And when we say that, it’s like, okay, there’s one Venn diagram between you maybe and your primary lover. As you map that, start thinking about the other relationships you have in your life. And it’s like, if your primary lover doesn’t want to take the high peak mountain risk taking rock climbing adventures with you, I bet you have a hiking buddy from 10 years ago that’s also really longing for that. And if you just say that to your partner, like, “I am craving this. It’s something I love to do. How can it fit in our life? Give me three weekends a year and I’m a changed man.”
Chris Rose (21:57):
And then you start calling up your buddies and you’re like, “What can we plan for October?” And then maybe you start training personally. But looking forward to October, you’ve got a spark in you now, like your partner has a new partner. Your Venn diagram is thrumming with a little bit more pleasure, your partner benefits from that. And this is that relationality we lose when we focus so much on the monogamy, on the romantic relationship. That is one relationship amongst hopefully many in your life.
Charlotte Rose (22:28):
And also that sex is a place that you can get access to some of these experiences, but also so is life. And so if there are things that you feel like you can’t negotiate within your relationship, how can you create that fulfillment in other areas of your life? Like we have to get creative with our own fulfillment and satisfaction.
Chris Rose (22:49):
Okay, so let’s talk about this because I think it’s really important. So let’s take thrill for example. If you know you’re someone that needs thrills, there are two ways this can go. You can get it in the rest of your life, so it’s not as necessary in your sex life, you can get the thrills in your sex life if it’s less available in your everyday life, or you can get it both ways. Or you get it not at all and you suffer, right? So the thrill seekers who don’t get thrills either in their personal life, their hobbies, their careers or their sex lives, really are the ones that struggle because they need it, something about their animal body needs more thrills and they’re not getting it. So what arena can you get it?
Charlotte Rose (23:41):
Or there are people who are not being totally honest about this with themselves and then are seeking thrills that are also potentially risking other things in life, right?
Chris Rose (23:49):
Charlotte Rose (23:50):
So some of us will take those risks though they may not be wise for the whole picture of your life. So can you-
Chris Rose (23:56):
Right. Again, so you just jumped like categories of risk, which is good. So the thrills, the risk you need to take, where are you taking that? Is maybe you’re channeling that into your career and you’re a high risk trader, so you don’t have to get that in the rest of your life. But it was interesting thinking about the kink community I was in. The kinkiest people I’ve met have been like coders, CEOs, people who are like very disciplined and high functioning and almost like boring, you would think. And then in their erotic life, they’re wildly creative and wear these incredible costumes and do amazing things with their bodies, and that’s their outlet.
Chris Rose (24:41):
So the invitation here is to perhaps like if you know you want more thrills, where in your life can you carve out that space? And all of these things can start shifting how we frame our sexual wants and needs and we can become more skillful, right? If you know you want high risk, high thrill in your sex life, are you going to have an affair? Because sneaking around is a great way to get that.
Charlotte Rose (25:11):
Chris Rose (25:12):
Charlotte Rose (25:14):
Chris Rose (25:15):
And you can feed off of that. What are you putting at stake? Or you sit down with your wife, you’ve cooked her a fabulous meal, and you’re like, “You know how when we met in college and I had just come back from that crazy trip. You know this about me, right? I’m a guy who really likes thrills.”
Charlotte Rose (25:36):
Rock climbing [crosstalk 00:00:25:38].
Chris Rose (25:37):
“I love our family, but I’m just needing something to look forward to.” And exactly like Charlotte is doing now, she will nod at you perhaps hopefully, or she might constrict and be like, “Well, I don’t know what that means in our life.” There’s a fear here of like will that take you away from me? And the point of being skillful is that we don’t have to give anything up that we love in order to get more of what we need and want. And knowing that if we get more of what we need and want, we can be better people for those who need us for our responsibilities, for our careers. So I think the first thing here is knowing yourself, doing a lot of self assessment and joyful, loving self-appraisal here, right? What risks have you taken in your life? What thrills? What have you been taught about that? Maybe you’re actually high risk, but you’ve been taught that that’s bad and irresponsible and you shouldn’t, and it’s part of like your good girl, good boy package, and you are just like biting at the trump to take some risks and get some thrills in.
Chris Rose (26:42):
All right, you know that about yourself now. So again, this is just about knowing yourself, doing this kind of loving, self compassionate appraisal of how your life has been up to now, what you’re wanting and longing for, how that fits into your current relationships. And you can be more honest and skillful there. And then also looking at how to have more fun and joy in your own being by making peace with these things. Like once I admitted to myself I’m a rule following naughty person, I find all sorts of rule following ways to be naughty and I get thrills out of them. As you get to know yourself, you can become more aligned with your values, but also make space for the parts of you that want to take risks, that want thrills, that longs for something new. That wants to see the risks and do what the fuck anyway. That feels good. Like, “I know this is a little risky and I’m going to do it.”
Charlotte Rose (27:42):
Yeah, it would be like, “I love experiences. What do I want to create? What do I want to make happen?” Like, “I find that really fulfilling, let me have some agency and some creativity about what to make happen.”
Chris Rose (27:55):
And we have this golden formula I just realized, that strikes all of our things. So one of our golden formulas is we’ll go to a college town, we’ll go to a lecture or a presentation, which are often free by the way, master life tip.
Charlotte Rose (28:10):
And have good snacks afterwards.
Chris Rose (28:12):
And often so great food, right, and then we’ll have a great meal at a restaurant and we’ll often then go on a walk at like a park or on-campus is beautiful. We’ll go to like a botany place or a museum that you really like because it’s a lot of aesthetic input and we get that walking, the nature, the movement. So as a couple, by being honest with what we both need, like some of the lectures you’re sitting through medium interested, some of the walks, I’m kind of like medium interested, but we’re both willing. And then at the end of that little arc, we’re both really fulfilled.
Chris Rose (28:46):
And we have the same kind of magic golden formulas in our erotic life where we know what we need and want, we can have some, and it’s not a script, it’s like, “I know I’m really into this. You know you’re really into that. You need this that I can’t give you, so you get it this way.” And that doesn’t necessarily have to be with other people by the way, right? If you go on your hikes with your thrill buddies, maybe you don’t have to get your erotic thrills with other people. But maybe you want to and maybe there’s room for that in your relationship. Okay, so know thyself. Know thyself, reflect on these things and see what comes up. We are here for you. We have so many other amazing assessments and worksheets and tools available for you. Our online courses are ready for you to take a deep dive into erotic skill building. If you want to learn couple’s massage with us and learn how Charlotte does it.
Charlotte Rose (29:41):
Come [crosstalk 00:29:44].
Chris Rose (29:44):
Someone wrote to me the other day and was like, “Can I just watch Charlotte give foot massage for an hour? Is that an okay use of my time?” And I was like, “Absolutely. That is a perfect use of your time because the next time you have a foot in your hand, Charlotte will be with you.” So couple’s massage, kink and erotic spanking, foreplay, mindful sex. We are here with you. And that’s the beauty of having built out these resources over 13 years is no matter what conversation you’re ready to have in our 370 free podcast episodes, where you’re ready to train with us. We are here and ready to work with you.
Chris Rose (30:20):
Come on over to pleasuremechanics.com, pleasuremechanics.com/free. Enroll in our free online course. And if you have been with us, you love the show, you know the benefit we have brought to you in your life and you’re feeling the love, pleasuremechanics.com/love. Throw us some support, show us you care. And we will be here with you next week with another episode of Speaking of Sex with the Pleasure Mechanics. I’m Chris.
Charlotte Rose (30:46):
Chris Rose (30:47):
We are the Pleasure Mechanics.
Charlotte Rose (30:48):
Wishing you a lifetime of pleasure.
Chris Rose (30:52):
It feels good to be back.
Charlotte Rose (30:53):
Yes, yes, yes.
Chris Rose (30:55):
Yes, we’re back with you. I love you. See you soon folks.
Charlotte Rose (31:00):