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The effect of cognitive distraction on the processing of alcohol cues
journal contributionposted on 2019-01-01, 00:00 authored by Eric KoukounasEric Koukounas, Nicolas KambouropoulosNicolas Kambouropoulos, Petra StaigerPetra Staiger
A range of studies have demonstrated that regular drinkers respond to alcohol-related stimuli with increased self-reported craving for alcohol (cue-reactivity). Considerable individual differences have been found in terms of the magnitude of the craving response. However, less work has been conducted to assess the role of cognitive factors in influencing alcohol cue-elicited craving. This study assessed the effect of a cognitive distraction task and individual variability in trait-mindfulness on responses to alcohol cues using a standard cue reactivity paradigm. Sixty-nine regular social drinkers were randomly allocated to one of the two experimental conditions – no instructions vs cognitive distraction (asked to focus on milk) – and were presented with alcohol. Results indicated that positive craving (i.e., desire to drink for positive reinforcement) increased from neutral to alcohol-cue exposure, and that those in the cognitive distraction condition reported significantly lower positive urge to drink after alcohol-cue exposure. No relationship between alcohol craving and mindfulness was found. Implications of the findings are discussed with a particular focus on the role of cognitive distraction in cue-reactivity and the potential utility of using a cognitive distraction technique to reduce alcohol craving.