The search for new ways to change implicit alcohol-related cognitions in heavy drinkers

R.W.H.J. Wiers*, W. Cox, M. Field, J. Fadardi, T. Palfai, T.M. Schoenmakers, A. Stacy

*Corresponding author for this work

Research output: Contribution to journalArticleAcademicpeer-review


This article summarizes a symposium on new ways to change implicit alcohol-related cognitions, presented at the 2005 Annual Meeting of the Research Society on Alcoholism in Santa Barbara, California, organized by Wiers and Cox. During the past few years. research has demonstrated that implicit cognitions predict unique variance in prospective alcohol use and preliminary results indicate that they also predict treatment outcomes. The central question in this symposium was how implicit cognitions can be changed and how the changes will influence behavior. Field presented data showing that an attentional bias for alcohol can be altered by attentional training: heavy drinkers who were trained not to attend to alcohol stimuli reported less craving and drank less beer than those trained to attend to alcohol stimuli. Schoemakers used a similar, clinically relevant attentional retraining (AR) procedure, heavy drinkers were trained not to attend to alcohol Pictures or received no training. After the training, the AR group attended less to the alcohol pictures than the control group. Fadardi described the Alcohol Attentional Control Training Program (AACTP), which makes alcohol drinkers aware of the automatic, cognitive determinants of their drinking and aims to help them to gain control over these processes. Data were presented to support the effectiveness of the AACTP. Palfai presented data showing that alcohol drinkers can be taught to use implementation intentions to Pin control over their drinking, which may be used to automatically activate self-control skills in the presence of alcohol Cues. In his discussion, Stacy pointed Out the importance of recent cognitive theories that integrate attention and memory processes-theories that can help us better understand the mechanisms involved in AR. Together, the studies presented demonstrate that there are promising new ways in which implicit alcohol-related cognitions and their effects on drinking can be changed, After further refinement, these procedures might be used in clinical interventions that have not previously addressed implicit cognitive processes.
Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)320-331
JournalAlcoholism-Clinical and Experimental Research
Issue number2
Publication statusPublished - 1 Jan 2006


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