Alcohol expectancy moderates attentional bias for alcohol cues in light drinkers
Aims Theoretical models suggest that attentional bias for alcohol-related cues develops because cues signal the availability of alcohol, and the expectancy elicited by alcohol cues is responsible for the maintenance of attentional bias among regular drinkers. We investigated the moderating role of alcohol expectancy on attentional bias for alcohol-related cues. Design Within-subjects experimental design. Setting Psychology laboratories. Participants Adult social drinkers (n = 58). Measurements On a trial-by-trial basis, participants were informed of the probability (100%, 50%, 0%) that they would receive beer at the end of the trial before their eye movements towards alcohol-related and control cues were measured. Findings Heavy social drinkers showed an attentional bias for alcohol-related cues regardless of alcohol expectancy. However, in light social drinkers, attentional bias was only seen on 100% probability trials, i.e. when alcohol was expected imminently. Conclusions Attentional bias for alcohol-related cues is sensitive to the current expectancy of receiving alcohol in light social drinkers, but it occurs independently of the current level of alcohol expectancy in heavy drinkers.