Aims Previous research indicates that acute alcohol intoxication and placebo can inhibit people’s control over consumption behaviour and heighten attentional bias (AB) towards alcohol-related stimuli, and craving. We designed a study to disentangle anticipated from pharmacological effects of alcohol in order to gain a clearer view of their relative contributions to alcohol consumption. Methods: In a within-participants design (moderate alcohol dose, placebo and control), and over a minimum 2-week period, participants completed a battery of questionnaires and cognitive tasks, followed by a bogus taste task to measure ad libitum consumption. Results: Both alcohol pre-load and placebo resulted in cognitive and psychological changes, including impaired inhibitory control, heightened AB and craving. However, ad libitum consumption only increased following alcohol and not placebo. Furthermore, inhibitory control impairments did not mediate the relationship between initial intoxication and ad libitum consumption, and findings indicate that increases in craving may mediate this association. Conclusions: Psychological processes such as craving may be more important in driving consummatory behaviour, relative to transient changes in cognitive processes such as inhibitory control.
- binge drinking Inhibitory control
- attentional bias