Beer à no-go: learning to stop responding to alcohol cues reduces alcohol intake via reduced affective associations rather than increased response inhibition


Katrijn Houben, Clinical Psychological Science, Maastricht University, PO Box 616, 6200 MD Maastricht, the Netherlands. E-mail:


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.