Attentional bias to alcohol-related stimuli as an indicator of changes in motivation to drink

Walter Roberts, Mark T. Fillmore

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

15 Scopus citations


Heavy drinkers show an attentional bias toward alcohol-related visual cues. A recent study in our laboratory (Weafer &Fillmore, 2013) showed that alcohol decreases attentional bias among heavy drinkers, suggesting that alcohol satiates motivation to drink in heavy drinkers. Little is known, however, about how this satiety effect might change across the time course of the blood alcohol concentration (BAC) curve. It is possible that attentional bias may return later in the time course if the satiety effect begins to diminish. The current study tested this hypothesis in a group of high-risk binge drinkers (n = 20). Participants completed a visual-probe task to measure their attentional bias and a self-report measure of their desire for alcohol after receiving 0.64 g/kg and 0.0 g/kg alcohol (placebo) during separate dose challenge sessions. The measures were obtained during the ascending limb of the BAC curve under alcohol (Test 1) and again during the descending limb (Test 2) at a comparable BAC. The measures also were obtained at the same times following placebo. Under alcohol, no attentional bias was observed during Test 1, but drinkers reported increased desire to drink. During Test 2, attentional bias was evident, but participants reported less desire to drink. Attentional bias was not correlated with desire to drink at any time point. Following placebo, attentional bias was evident during both tests. These findings show that alcohol causes a temporary reduction of attentional bias among heavy drinkers. These changes do not correspond with their self-reported motivation to drink.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)63-70
Number of pages8
JournalPsychology of Addictive Behaviors
Issue number1
StatePublished - Mar 2015

Bibliographical note

Publisher Copyright:
© 2014 American Psychological Association.


  • Acute tolerance
  • Alcohol effects
  • Attentional bias
  • Binge drinkers
  • Implicit cognition

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Medicine (miscellaneous)
  • Clinical Psychology
  • Psychiatry and Mental health


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