Motivational and cognitive determinants of attentional bias for alcohol-related stimuli : implications for a new attentional-training intervention

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    Research areas

  • PhD, School of Psychology


This research examined the adequacy of cognitive-motivational theory (Cox & Klinger, 1988,1990; Klinger, 1995) for integrating cognitive and motivational predictors of alcohol consumption. It did so by evaluating_the role of motivational structure and attentional bias for alcohol-related stimuli in predicting drinking behaviour. The study used an abridged version of the Personal Concerns Inventory (PCI), Perceived Stress Scale (PSS), Shipley Institute of Living Scale (SILS), a self-report inventory of alcohol use, two versions of a computerised Stroop test, and a post-Stroop memory test and emotional valence ratings. In Experiments 1-3,128 university students and 50 inpatient alcohol abusers completed the instruments. Experiment 1 revealed that, after other variables had been controlled in a hierarchical multiple regression model, maladaptive motivation and alcohol attentional bias scores were significant predictors of students' alcohol consumption. Experiment 2 revealed that (a) drinking problems predicted students' Executive Cognitive Function (ECF), (b) students' ECF did not predict their motivational structure, and (c) students' attentional bias for alcohol-related stimuli was independent of their ECF. Experiment 3 revealed that (a) alcohol abusers had a poorer ECF than students, (b) alcohol abusers showed greater attentional bias for alcohol-related stimuli than did students, (c) alcohol abusers had poorer motivation than students, (d) motivational distinctions among different alcohol abusers could be identified, (e) alcohol abusers' ECF impairment predicted their degree of maladaptive motivation, and (f) alcohol abusers' attentional bias for alcohol related stimuli was independent of their ECF. Because there has been a gap between prior research on attentional bias for alcohol- related stimuli and applications of the findings of this research in treatment, a new, computerised training programme called the Alcohol Attention Diversion Training Programme (AADTP) was developed in the current research to help alcohol abusers overcome their attentional bias for alcohol. In Experiment 4, nine detoxified alcohol abusers took part in an evaluation of the training. Results revealed that, after training with the AADTP, the trainees' attentional bias for alcohol-related stimuli, but not their bias for other concern-related stimuli, considerably decreased. Overall, the results of the research indicate that (a) motivational structure and alcohol attentional bias are important correlates of drinking behaviour among non-dependent and dependent drinkers, and (b) AADTP is an effective, alcohol-specific intervention to help alcohol abusers overcome their drinking difficulties.


Original languageEnglish
Awarding Institution
  • Bangor University
Thesis sponsors
  • Ministry of Science, Research, and Technology of Iran (MSRT)
  • Ferdowsi University of Mashhad
Award dateJan 2003