The effect of image complexity on attentional bias towards alcohol-related images in adult drinkers


Mark T. Fillmore, Department of Psychology, University of Kentucky, Lexington, KY 40506-0044, USA. E-mail:


Aim  Visual probe tasks are often used to measure attentional bias (AB) towards alcohol-related images in drinkers, but little is known about the effect of the properties of the images used in this task: specifically, image complexity.

Methods  AB was examined in a group of adult drinkers (n = 25). Two measures of attentional bias were obtained from a modified visual probe task. First, a traditional dot probe detection task measured attentional bias in drinkers based on their reaction times to probes replacing neutral and alcohol-related images. Secondly, an eye-tracking measure was applied to this task to directly assess the drinkers' eye gazes to the alcohol-related and neutral images. The effect of image complexity was examined by comparing AB towards images classified as simple and complex.

Findings  Results showed that drinkers displayed AB only towards simple alcohol-related images as measured by both probe RT and fixation times.

Conclusion  These findings suggest that complex alcohol-related images might be less effective at capturing drinkers' attention and could result in less attentional bias when used in visual probe tasks.