Effects of 0.4g/kg alcohol on attentional bias and alcohol-seeking behaviour in heavy and moderate social drinkers

Gordon Fernie, Paul Christiansen, Jon C Cole, Abigail K Rose, Matt Field

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19 Citations (Scopus)


Alcohol intoxication is known to influence attentional biases for alcohol-related cues and alcohol-seeking behaviour. It is unknown if heavier drinkers are more or less sensitive to these effects of alcohol, or whether the effects of alcohol on attentional bias are associated with subsequent alcohol-seeking behaviour. In the present study, 55 social drinkers were administered either 0.4 g/kg alcohol or placebo in a repeated measures, double-blind experimental design. Participants completed a visual probe task with eye movement monitoring (to measure attentional bias) and a bogus taste test (to measure alcohol-seeking) in both alcohol and placebo sessions. Heavy drinkers showed an attentional bias for alcohol cues that was unaffected by alcohol, whereas in moderate drinkers attentional bias was present after alcohol administration, but was absent after placebo. All participants voluntarily consumed more beer during the taste test after administration of alcohol compared with placebo. The effects of alcohol on attentional bias were unrelated to the effects of alcohol on beer consumption. Results are consistent with the development of tolerance, rather than sensitization, to the acute effects of alcohol on attentional biases in heavy drinkers. However, alcohol-induced increases in attentional bias were not related to the effects of alcohol on the motivation to drink.
Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)1017-1025
Number of pages9
JournalJournal of Psychopharmacology
Issue number7
Early online date24 Jan 2012
Publication statusPublished - Jul 2012



  • alcohol
  • attentional bias
  • priming
  • tolerance

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