- How do alcohol cues affect working memory? Persistent slowing due to alcohol-related distracters in an alcohol version of the Sternberg task
- Addiction Research & Theory
- Volume | Issue number
- 20 | 4
- Pages (from-to)
- Document type
- Faculty of Social and Behavioural Sciences (FMG)
- Psychology Research Institute (PsyRes)
Dual-process models of addiction suggest that addiction involves an imbalance between impulsive and reflective processing. That is, alcohol-approach associations may influence behavior, unless such influences are modulated by working memory processes. However, working memory processes may themselves be affected by salient and incentive stimuli. Recent work suggests that temporal dynamics may play a central role in such effects. A novel alcohol Sternberg task was used to further study such interference in social drinkers. Subjects had to keep a list of numbers in mind while performing secondary tasks involving alcoholic and non-alcoholic stimuli. Delays between the end of the secondary task and memory probes were varied to determine the persistence of interference over time. Results showed a more persistent slowing of responses at recall following alcoholic versus non-alcoholic stimuli. At the short delay, no alcohol-related differences were found; at the longer delay, however, reaction time had decreased significantly over the delay period but only following non-alcoholic stimuli. Alcohol-related stimuli thus appeared to cause relatively persistent interference with ongoing working memory processes. The findings provide suggestions about the nature of alcohol-related effects on working memory. Further, the finding that alcohol-related effects may be dependent on the timing of trial events may be an important methodological consideration in future studies.
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