Alcohol-related attentional bias in a gaze contingency task: Comparing appetitive and non-appetitive cues

Adam Qureshi, Rebecca Monk, Charlotte Pennington, Thomas Wilcockson, Derek Heim

Research output: Contribution to journalArticle (journal)peer-review

23 Citations (Scopus)
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Background: Social 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; M age = 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., beer), appetitive non-alcohol-related (e.g., orange juice) and non-appetitive (e.g., washing liquid) stimuli. Participants were split 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, respondents displaying more problematic consumption practices may find it more difficult to inhibit eye movements toward 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.
Original languageEnglish
JournalAddictive Behaviours
Early online date24 Nov 2018
Publication statusE-pub ahead of print - 24 Nov 2018


  • Inhibitory Control
  • Attentional Bias
  • Alcohol
  • Appetitive
  • Gaze Contingency


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