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Am J Drug Alcohol Abuse. 2017 May;43(3):332-340. doi: 10.1080/00952990.2016.1209511. Epub 2016 Aug 11.

Attentional bias toward alcohol-related stimuli in heavy drinkers: evidence from dynamic eye movement recording.

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a Department of Psychology , Laurentian University , Sudbury , Ontario , Canada.
b École de psychologie, Université de Moncton , Moncton , New Brunswick , Canada.
c Department of Psychology , Dalhousie University , Halifax , Nova Scotia , Canada.



It has been proposed that attentional biases toward alcohol stimuli are contributing factors maintaining problematic drinking behavior.


The main goal of the present set of studies was to provide an examination of dynamic attentional mechanisms associated with alcohol consumption derived from eye movement monitoring.


Undergraduate students were recruited for two studies. In Experiment 1, 80 students were exposed to complex scenes (containing alcohol-related cues or not) viewed at a self-determined presentation rate. In Experiment 2, 80 students were exposed to the stimuli for a fixed presentation time and asked to memorize the photographs. In both studies, participants completed the Khavari Alcohol Test (KAT) to measure their drinking behaviors.


Experiment 1 revealed that alcohol consumption was unrelated to eye movement measures on alcohol-related objects within pictures. However, results of Experiment 2 indicated that saccades into and out of the alcohol-related zones were more frequent as alcohol consumption increased. The time spent and the speed of the first fixation in the alcohol-related zone did not explain the variance in alcohol consumption.


Attentional biases associated with alcohol consumption might be better understood in terms of dynamic attention mechanisms. More precisely, heavy drinker's attention seems to be constantly drawn back to alcohol-related objects once they are first fixated and when attention is enforced through other cognitive demands. From a clinical viewpoint, dynamic attentional biases might contribute to the development or maintenance of alcohol-related problems and this observation might help guide attention-based interventions.


Attentional bias; alcohol consumption; alcohol cue; eye movements

[Indexed for MEDLINE]

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