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Keywords:

  • Alcohol;
  • go/no-go task;
  • implicit attitudes;
  • response inhibition

ABSTRACT

Aims  Previous research has shown that consistently not responding to alcohol-related stimuli in a go/no-go training procedure reduces drinking behaviour. This study aimed to examine further the mechanisms underlying this go/no-go training effect.

Design, setting and participants  Fifty-seven heavy drinkers were assigned randomly to two training conditions: in the beer/no-go condition, alcohol-related stimuli were always paired with a stopping response, while in the beer/go condition participants always responded to alcohol-related stimuli. Participants were tested individually in a laboratory at Maastricht University.

Measurements  Weekly alcohol intake, implicit attitudes towards beer, approach–avoidance action tendencies towards beer and response inhibition were measured before and after the training.

Findings  Results showed a significant reduction in both implicit attitudes (P = 0.03) and alcohol intake (P = 0.02) in the beer/no-go condition, but not in the beer/go condition. There were no significant training effects on action tendencies or response inhibition.

Conclusions  Repeatedly stopping pre-potent responses towards alcohol-related stimuli reduces excessive alcohol use via a devaluation of alcohol-related stimuli rather than via increased inhibitory control over alcohol-related responses.