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Keywords:

  • Alcohol-seeking;
  • attentional bias;
  • concurrent choice;
  • devaluation;
  • social drinkers;
  • value-based decision making

Abstract

Aims

To investigate the mediating role of attentional bias for alcohol cues on alcohol-seeking following devaluation of alcohol.

Design

Between subject.

Setting

Eye-tracking laboratory at the University of Liverpool.

Participants

Student social drinkers (n = 64).

Measurements

An operant choice task in which participants chose between simultaneously presented alcohol and non-alcohol drink rewards, while attentional bias for alcohol and non-alcohol drink cues was inferred from eye movements. Participants then consumed 30 mL of an alcoholic beverage, which was either presented alone (no devaluation: n = 32) or had been adulterated to taste unpleasant (devaluation: n = 32). Choice and attentional bias for the alcohol and non-alcohol drink pictures were then measured again.

Findings

Alcohol devaluation reduced behavioural choice for alcohol (F = 32.64, P < 0.001) and attentional bias for the alcohol pictures indexed by dwell time (F = 22.68, P < 0.001), initial fixation (F = 7.08, P = 0.01) and final fixation (F = 22.44, P < 0.001). Mediation analysis revealed that attentional bias partially mediated the effect of devaluation on alcohol choice; however, the proportion of the variance accounted for by attentional bias is low to moderate (∼30%).

Conclusions

Among student social drinkers, attentional bias is only a partial mediator of alcohol choice following devaluation of alcohol. Value-based decision-making may be a more important determinant of drinking behaviour among student social drinkers than attentional bias.