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An eye-tracking study investigating attentional biases for alcohol cues in binge drinkers in a student population

Fowles, Katie (2011) An eye-tracking study investigating attentional biases for alcohol cues in binge drinkers in a student population. Roehampton University.

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Abstract

It is well-established that the attention of alcoholics compared with non alcoholics or social drinkers, is captured more by alcohol related than by neutral stimuli. This phenomenon is defined as an attentional bias for alcohol cues. This report focuses on whether attentional bias, commonly found in dependent alcoholics, can be generalised to non-dependent social drinkers. Binge drinking university students will be compared with non-binge drinkers of the same university population. Participants’ eye movements to alcohol-related and control pictures were monitored during a visual probe task where attentional bias was determined from both the eye movement data and latencies in responding to the probe. Questionnaires were also used to examine relations among attention and two general motivation systems. The results failed to support the hypothesis that binge social drinkers display an enhanced attentional bias towards alcohol related stimuli compared with non-binge social drinkers. Nevertheless, interestingly a significant perceptual direction bias for the left visual field across all participants was found indicating a potential scanning effect. Also, a significant generic slow down of reaction time responses across all groups for alcohol trials indicated a potential emotional Stroop effect. The results show that binge and non-binge sub types of social drinkers may not be as experimentally comparable to other sub categories of social drinking as originally thought. This suggests that research into attentional bias for specific sub groups of social drinkers should be cautious when generalising the findings to all social drinkers.

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