Effects of a low dose of alcohol on cognitive biases and craving in heavy drinkers

T.M. Schoenmakers*, R.W.H.J. Wiers, M. Field

*Corresponding author for this work

Research output: Contribution to journalArticleAcademicpeer-review

138 Citations (Web of Science)


Rationale Heavy alcohol drinking increases the incentive salience of alcohol-related cues. This leads to increased appetitive motivation to drink alcohol as measured by subjective craving and cognitive biases such as attentional bias and approach bias. Although these measures relate to the same construct, correlations between these variables are often very low. Alcohol consumption might not only increase different aspects of appetitive motivation, but also correlations between those aspects. Objectives To investigate the effect of a low alcohol dose on changes in various measures of appetitive motivation. Materials and methods Twenty-three heavy social drinkers were tested in 2 sessions, once after receiving an alcohol prime dose and once after receiving a placebo drink. After drink administration, attentional bias was measured with a visual-probe task using concurrent eye movement monitoring. Furthermore, we measured the approach bias with a stimulus response compatibility task and subjective craving with the Desires for Alcohol Questionnaire. Results After the alcohol prime dose, participants had higher levels of craving and more pronounced attentional bias (faster reaction times to probes that replaced alcohol rather than control pictures, increased maintenance of gaze on alcohol pictures, and a higher percentage of first eye movements directed toward alcohol pictures). Approach bias was not influenced by the alcohol prime dose. The correlation between attentional bias and approach bias was significantly higher after the alcohol than after the placebo drink. Conclusions A low alcohol dose increased most measures of appetitive motivation for alcohol and increased the interrelation between cognitive measures of this construct.
Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)169-178
Issue number1
Publication statusPublished - 1 Jan 2008

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