Alcohol-related attentional bias in a gaze contingency task: Comparing appetitive and non-appetitive cues
journal contributionposted on 03.04.2019, 13:08 authored by Adam Qureshi, Rebecca L. Monk, Charlotte R. Pennington, Thom WilcocksonThom Wilcockson, Derek Heim
Background: Non-problem drinkers attend automatically to alcohol-related cues compared to non-alcohol related cues on tests of inhibitory control. Moreover, attentional bias for alcohol-related cues varies between problem and non-problem drinkers. Aim: To examine attentional bias towards alcoholic and non-alcoholic appetitive cues between problem and non-problem drinkers. Method: Forty-one university students (9 male, 32 female; Mage = 21.50) completed an eye-tracking gaze contingency paradigm, measuring the number of times participants looked at peripherally and centrally located stimuli (break frequency) when instructed to maintain focus on a target object. Stimuli consisted of appetitive alcohol-related (e.g., wine), appetitive non-alcohol-related (e.g., cola) and non-appetitive (e.g., fabric softener) stimuli. Participants were split using the Alcohol Use Disorders Identification Test (AUDIT) into non-problem (M AUDIT = 3.86) and problematic drinkers (M AUDIT = 11.59). Results: Problematic drinkers had higher break frequencies towards peripheral appetitive stimuli than towards non-appetitive stimuli, while break frequency was equivalent between appetitive cues presented centrally (alcohol and non-alcohol-related). In contrast, there were no differences in break frequency across stimuli type or cue presentation location (central or peripheral) for non-problem drinkers. Conclusion: In contrast to non-problem drinkers, people displaying more problematic consumption practices may find it more difficult to inhibit eye movements towards appetitive stimuli, particularly when in peripheral vision. This may suggest that attentional biases, as measured in terms of overt eye movements, in problem drinkers may be most powerful when the alcoholic and appetitive stimuli are not directly in field of view. An uncertainty reduction process in the allocation of attention to appetitive cues may help explain the patterns of results observed.
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