Examining fast and slow effects for alcohol and negative emotion in problem and social drinkers

Clarke, Simon; Sharma, Dinkar and Salter, Daniel (2015). Examining fast and slow effects for alcohol and negative emotion in problem and social drinkers. Addiction Research & Theory, 23(1) pp. 24–33.

DOI: https://doi.org/10.3109/16066359.2014.922961


Attentional bias (AB) for alcohol-related stimuli has been consistently demonstrated in social and problem drinkers. The aims of this study were to: investigate whether AB for alcohol-related stimuli could be described as a slow effect as well as a fast effect; how these effects relate to drinking behaviour; and the influence of the experimental procedure on priming effects. Two experiments were designed. In experiment 1, problem drinkers in treatment at a community alcohol service (N = 62) and a group of social drinking controls (N = 60) were assessed using the modified Stroop task with alcohol, negative emotion and neutral words. Drinking patterns were also recorded on the Khavari Alcohol Test. In experiment 2, social drinking controls (N = 40) completed the same procedure but were blinded to the study’s aims. In experiment 1, both groups demonstrated slower response times to alcohol-related than neutral stimuli in both fast and slow processes. Difference scores for alcohol compared to neutral words in the slow process were positively correlated with increases in drinking levels for both groups. In experiment 2, AB to alcohol-related stimuli disappeared when participants were unprimed. The findings highlight the importance of investigating the role of fast and slow processes in continued and problem drinking, alongside priming effects from the experimental procedure.

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