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, 107 (6), 1074-80

Interactive Effects of Approach Motivational Intensity and Alcohol Cues on the Scope of Perceptual Attention

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Interactive Effects of Approach Motivational Intensity and Alcohol Cues on the Scope of Perceptual Attention

Joshua A Hicks et al. Addiction.

Abstract

Aims: Many theoretical perspectives suggest that alcohol-related stimuli bear on attentional processes. Building upon these ideas and recent advances regarding the attention-constricting impact of approach motivational states, we predicted that mere exposure to alcohol-related images would suffice to reduce the breadth of attention among individuals who possessed a strong motivation to consume alcohol.

Design: Two studies exposed participants to alcohol and neutral cues prior to assessing attention structure. In both studies, measures of alcohol use, negative alcohol expectancies, trait approach motivation and alcohol-related approach motivation were assessed.

Setting and participants: Study 1 comprised 102 undergraduates and study 2 comprised 161 undergraduates. Studies were conducted at Texas A&M University, College Station, Texas.

Measurements: In both studies, participants were briefly exposed to pictures of various stimuli (alcohol versus neutral pictures). After each picture was displayed, participants completed a trial assessing attentional focus.

Findings: After controlling for relevant covariates, both studies demonstrated that exposure to alcohol-related pictures led to a narrowing of attentional focus among individuals who possessed a strong motivation to use alcohol. Exposure to neutral pictures, however, did not interact with alcohol-related motivation to influence attentional focus.

Conclusions: Alcohol cues narrow attentional breadth for individuals who are motivated to consume alcohol, suggesting a non-pharmacological means in which alcohol produces a narrow mindset. Alcohol cues may contribute to cognitive and behavioral deficits, as well as drinking behaviors, in part, because they lead to the inability to process a broad range of information in the environment.

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