Does the smell of alcohol make it harder to resist? The impact of olfactory cues on inhibitory control and attentional bias

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Abstract

Background: It is well known that, owing to associative processing, olfactory cues can impact memory, emotion and behaviour. Research also points to a link between the smells of particular substances and craving. Yet, to date, little research has investigated how smell may impact other cognitive processes that are known to drive alcohol consumption.
Aim: To assess how exposure to alcohol-related (vodka) relative to neutral (citrus) olfactory cues impacts inhibitory control and attentional bias.
Method: Participants took part in a go/no-go (Study 1) and Stroop task (Study 2) while wearing masks that were pre-treated with vodka or citrus oil of equivalent intensity.
Study 1 Results: Response error rates were higher in participants in the alcohol-related (versus neutral) olfactory condition, with no interaction between olfactory and visual cue.
Study 2 Results: Responses to alcohol-related versus neutral words were similar, while performance appeared significantly impaired among participants wearing alcohol (relative to citrus) infused masks.
Conclusion: The smell of alcohol may impair signal detection performance on the go/no-go and Stroop task. As inhibitory control and attentional processes are known to be associated with decisions to drink or exercise restraint, these results may have implications for our understanding of alcohol consumption and for tailoring interventions.
Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)2109-2118
Number of pages10
JournalPsychopharmacology
Volume239
Issue number7
Early online date26 May 2022
DOIs
Publication statusPublished - Jul 2022

Keywords

  • smell
  • olfaction
  • alcohol
  • inhibition
  • attention
  • Stroop
  • go/no-go

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