Attentional capture by alcohol-related stimuli may be activated involuntarily by top-down search goals

Brown, Christ R H, Duka, Theodora and Forster, Sophie (2018) Attentional capture by alcohol-related stimuli may be activated involuntarily by top-down search goals. Psychopharmacology, 235 (7). pp. 2087-2099. ISSN 0033-3158

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Previous research has found that the attention of social drinkers is preferentially oriented towards alcohol related stimuli (attentional capture). This is argued to play a role in escalating craving for alcohol that can result in hazardous drinking. According to Incentive theories of drug addiction, the stimuli associated with the drug reward acquire learned incentive salience, and grab attention. However, it is not clear whether the mechanism by which this bias is created is a voluntary or an automatic one, although some evidence suggests a stimulus-driven mechanism. Here we test for the first time whether this attentional capture could reflect an involuntary consequence of a goal-driven mechanism. Across three experiments, participants were given search goals to detect either an alcoholic or a non-alcoholic object (target) in a stream of briefly presented objects unrelated to the target. Prior to the target, a task-irrelevant parafoveal distractor appeared. This could either be congruent or incongruent with the current search goal. Applying a meta-analysis, we combined the results across the three experiments and found consistent evidence of goal-driven attentional capture; whereby alcohol distractors impeded target detection when the search goal was for alcohol. By contrast, alcohol distractors did not interfere with target detection while participants were searching for a non-alcoholic category. A separate experiment revealed that the goal-driven capture effect was not found when participants held alcohol features active in memory but did not intentionally search for them. These findings suggest a strong goal-driven account of attentional capture by alcohol cues in social drinkers.

Item Type: Article
Keywords: Attentional bias; Reward; Alcohol; Incentive Salience; Goal-driven attention; Top-down attention
Schools and Departments: School of Psychology > Psychology
Depositing User: Ellena Adams
Date Deposited: 23 Apr 2018 11:42
Last Modified: 17 Jul 2019 08:45

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