Abstinent alcoholics often deny craving for alcohol but still show a high level of relapse. The eyeblink response to startling noise was used as an indicator of the emotional response to alcohol-related, positive, negative and neutral visual stimuli in abstinent alcoholics, social drinkers and rarely drinking controls. The cognitive evaluation of the stimuli was assessed by ratings of subjective craving, valence and arousal. The startle response of the alcoholics to alcohol-related stimuli was significantly inhibited despite an aversive overt stimulus-evaluation. These findings indicate that alcohol-related stimuli may have appetitive incentive salience for alcoholics in spite of verbal reports of craving and valence to the opposite.