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Investigating attentional bias and the effects of subjective craving in male regular cannabis-users, utilising a dot-probe task

Sprules, Adam (2010) Investigating attentional bias and the effects of subjective craving in male regular cannabis-users, utilising a dot-probe task.

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Abstract

Cannabis is a widely used illegal substance with various potential health risks, such as memory impairments and psychosis. Furthermore, previous research has implicated that repeated drug-use is associated with attentional biases for drug-related stimuli. These attentional biases are related to, and influenced by, individual differences in subjective craving. This study investigated 40 male cannabis-users and 40 male non-users, aged 18-24. Participants completed a dot-probe task to assess attentional biases for cannabis-related words. Cannabis-users also completed Heishman et al.’s (2009) Short-Form Marijuana Craving Questionnaire, to assess craving levels and analyse any interactions with dot-probe reaction times. Study 1 aimed to determine whether cannabis-users elicited attentional biases for cannabis-related words. Study 2 examined whether craving had any effect on attentional bias. Results indicated that cannabis-users, compared to non-users and regardless of craving level, showed significant attentional bias for cannabis-related words. Although craving level did not significantly influence attentional bias, this may have resulted from using a small, uneven sample. Findings support previous theories of addiction, where salient stimuli grab users’ attention without equal distribution. Attentional bias and subjective craving are huge factors in repeated drug-use. Consequently, cessation techniques could be adapted to help avoid prevalent environmental cues and aid cognitive avoidance strategies.

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