Previous research has indicated that implicit attentional bias to alcohol-related cues may serve as a cognitive measure of susceptibility to alcohol dependence. The primary goal of the current study was to examine whether college students who drink to escape dysphoric emotions or moods (i.e., escape drinkers) have stronger attentional biases for alcohol-related cues than non-escape drinkers. Additionally, because previous research has shown that presentation time and content of smoking-related stimuli moderates differences between smokers' and nonsmokers' reaction times, this study sought to determine whether these effects generalized to alcohol-related stimuli. Participants who were identified as either escape (n = 74) or non-escape drinkers (n = 48) completed a dot-probe task in which alcohol-related pictures that contained humans interacting with the alcohol-related cues (active) or alcohol-related cues alone (inactive) were presented along with matched control pictures. These stimuli were presented for either 500 ms or 2000 ms to determine whether attentional biases occur as a function of initial or maintained attention to the alcohol-related cues. Escape drinkers displayed a significantly stronger attentional bias for alcohol-related inactive cues at longer presentation times (i.e., 2000 ms) compared to non-escape drinkers. This bias was independent of alcohol dependence and family history of alcoholism. These results suggest that in addition to dependence and family history, escape drinking is an important factor to consider when examining attentional biases to alcohol-related cues.
Forestell, Catherine A.; Dickter, Cheryl L.; and Young, Chelsie M., Take Me Away: The Relationship Between Escape Drinking and Attentional Bias for Alcohol-Related Cues (2012). Alcohol, 46(6), 543-549.