Rationale: The attentional bias for drug cues is believed to be a causal cognitive process mediating human drug seeking and relapse.
Objectives, methods and results: To test this claim, we trained smokers on a tobacco conditioning procedure in which the conditioned stimulus (or S+) acquired parallel control of an attentional bias (measured with an eye tracker), tobacco expectancy and instrumental tobacco-seeking behaviour. Although this correlation between measures may be regarded as consistent with the claim that the attentional bias for the S+ mediated tobacco seeking, when a secondary task was added in the test phase, the attentional bias for the S+ was abolished, yet the control of tobacco expectancy and tobacco seeking remained intact.
Conclusions: This dissociation suggests that the attentional bias for drug cues is not necessary for the control that drug cues exert over drug-seeking behaviour. The question raised by these data is what function does the attentional bias serve if it does not mediate drug seeking?