Individual Differences in the Attentional Blink to Alcohol-Related Cues
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Research examining attentional biases toward alcohol cues in social drinking populations has relied on several different attentional paradigms, the majority of which do not provide researchers with insight on the temporal dynamics (e.g., early or late stages of processing) of these biases. The purpose of this study was to investigate the temporal dynamics of these biases in social drinkers of alcohol using an attentional blink (AB) paradigm. Male and female social and abstinent drinkers were recruited to complete one of two AB tasks (i.e., words or images). It was predicted that heavier social drinkers would show a reduced AB relative to lighter drinkers and abstainers, indicative of more efficient processing of alcoholic stimuli at early levels of encoding. It was also predicted that a family history of problem drinking will enhance this effect. Additionally, the AB to words and images was compared to explore the role of stimulus type on attentional capture. Our results show a reduced AB for alcohol-related images, but not words, in heavier social drinkers at early levels of encoding, suggesting a more efficient processing of alcohol-related images in this group. Further, family history of alcohol problems did not modulate the AB effect. These results of attentional bias may help inform AUD treatment options, as well as assessment of an individual’s risk for developing an AUD.