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A flicker change blindness task employing eye tracking reveals an association with levels of craving not consumption

Hobson, Jillian and Bruce, Gillian and Butler, Stephen (2013) A flicker change blindness task employing eye tracking reveals an association with levels of craving not consumption. Journal of Psychopharmacology, 27 (1). pp. 93-97. ISSN 1461-7285

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Abstract

We investigated attentional biases with a flicker paradigm, examining the proportion of alcohol relative to neutral changes detected. Furthermore, we examined how measures of the participants initial orienting of attention and of their maintained attention relate to levels of alcohol consumption and subjective craving in social drinkers. The eye movements of 58 participants (24 male) were monitored whilst they completed a flicker-induced change blindness task using both simple stimuli and real world scenes, with both an alcohol and neutral change competing for detection. When examined in terms of consumption levels, we observed that heavier social drinkers detected a higher proportion of alcohol related changes in real world scenes only. However, we also observed that levels of craving were not indicative of levels of consumption in social drinkers. Furthermore, also in real world scenes only, higher cravers detected a greater proportion of alcohol related changes compared to lower cravers, and were also quicker to initially fixate on alcohol related stimuli. Thus we conclude that processing biases in the orienting of attention to alcohol related stimuli were demonstrated in higher craving compared to lower craving social users in real world scenes. However, this was not related to the level of consumption as would be expected. These results highlight various methodological and conceptual issues to be considered in future research.