Date of this Version
Drug and Alcohol Dependence 67 (2002) 185-191.
Much evidence documents that individuals with emotional and drug-use disorders demonstrate biased attention toward stimuli associated with their disorder. This bias appears to diminish following successful treatment. Two studies examined whether current cigarette smokers show biased attention toward smoking-related images compared with non-smokers (Studies 1 and 2) and whether this bias is less pronounced in former smokers (Study 2). Attentional bias toward cigarette-related photographs was examined using the dot-probe task. Pairs of images (one smoking-related) appeared side by side for 500 ms on a computer screen prior to the presentation of a probe (an asterisk) replacing one of the photographs. Subjects struck a key as quickly as possible to indicate the probe location. Attentional bias was defined as faster reaction times when the probe replaced the smoking-related image. In both studies, current smokers displayed significantly greater attentional bias toward cigarette stimuli than did non-smokers. Former smokers in Study 2 displayed an intermediate level of bias, but did not differ significantly in bias score from either of the other groups. These results support further use of the dot-probe task as a measure of attentional bias in non-abstinent smokers and in individuals undergoing smoking cessation treatment.