Published On: 27/01/2014|Categories: 2013–2017, Vol.35 (1), Vol.35 (2014)|


Attentional bias plays an important role in the development and maintenance of alcohol addiction, and has often been measured with a visual probe task, where reaction times are compared for probes replacing either a substancerelated cue or a neutral cue. Systematic low-level differences between image classes are a potential cause of low internal reliability of the probe task (Ataya et al., 2012). Moreover, it is unclear whether automatic attentional capture by low-level properties such as size and colour in the non-substance related image could reduce attentional bias to the alcohol-related cue. Here, alcohol-related attentional bias was assessed in moderate social drinkers by measuring reaction times to targets that replaced either an alcohol-related or a non-alcohol related (i.e., neutral) picture. All alcohol-related images were greyscale, and the neutral stimulus could be either greyscale (‘control’), in colour (‘colour’), or greyscale and 25% larger in size (‘25% larger size’). We found attentional bias towards the alcohol-related stimuli in the control and 25% larger size conditions, but not in the colour condition. The magnitude of attentional bias was significantly reduced in the colour condition compared to the control and 25% larger size conditions. These findings indicate that salient low-level features in the non-substance related cue, in particular colour, can reduce the effect of alcohol-related content on the allocation of alcohol drinkers’ attention. Further, the results highlight the need for image pairs in visual probe tasks to be closely matched on basic perceptual dimensions.

Open Access