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Title: Attentional biases in addictive behaviours : an investigation employing the flicker induced change blindness paradigm and eye tracking
Author: Mullen, Jillian
Awarding Body: University of Strathclyde
Current Institution: University of Strathclyde
Date of Award: 2013
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Past research and theory has suggested that biased attention to substance related stimuli may be an important factor in the development, maintenance and relapse of addictive behaviours and therefore may be a fruitful target for interventions. The current understanding of the extent and roles of substance related attentional biases in addictive behaviours however remains limited primarily as a result of methodological limitations. This thesis examines the extent and roles of substance related attentional bias in social use and dependent use by employing the flicker change blindness paradigm whilst utilising eye tracking and further examines the validity of this methodological approach. Experiment 1a explored alcohol related attentional biases in social users of alcohol. Results demonstrated that a bias in the initial orienting of attention was associated with levels of subjective craving. Additionally analysis indicated that such biases were only evident over multiple trials and when real world scene stimuli were viewed. Experiment 1b examined smoking related attentional biases in dependent smokers and non-smokers and showed that dependent smokers compared to nonsmokers demonstrated a smoking related attentional bias in both grid and real world scene stimuli. However when dependent smokers were analysed by themselves, only a relationship between maintained attention on smoking related stimuli and levels of cigarette use was implicated. Again this later finding was only demonstrated over multiple trials when viewing real world scenes. Whilst experiments 1a and 1b provide evidence demonstrating that sub-components of substance related attentional biases may play differing roles in substance use, they also highlighted the impact of the types of stimuli and number of trials employed when utilising such methodology. Experiments 2a and 2b based on Gilchrist and Harvey (2006) went on to explore the possibility that when using the flicker change blindness paradigm the structure of the stimuli may encourage strategic scanning and so limit the validity of the paradigm as a measure of attentional bias. The results of experiment 2a and 2b demonstrated that when employing the flicker change blindness paradigm, participants display a strategic component in their scan paths from the very first trial, irrespective of the structure of the stimuli. Furthermore, over multiple trials the extent of strategic scanning of both social users of alcohol (experiment 2a) and smokers (experiment 2b) was strongest when viewing the most spatially structured stimuli. However the results were limited in their ability to fully evaluate the relationship between the degree of structure of the stimuli, the extent of strategic scanning and the attentional biases evidenced, possibly as a result of the stimuli composition. Experiments 3a and 3b therefore reanalysed experiments 1a and 1b in order to examine the extent of strategic scanning between perfectly structured grids and complex real world scenes. The results clearly demonstrated that even when real world scene stimuli are utilised when employing the flicker ICB participants still employ strategic scanning, however both experiments demonstrated that it was to a lesser degree than when viewing perfectly structured stimuli. The results of experiments 2a-3b and with the consideration of the pattern of attentional bias results in experiments 1a and 1b outline the effects of the stimuli type on the validity of the flicker ICB task to measure attentional biases and as a result have important implications for future research.
Supervisor: Not available Sponsor: Not available
Qualification Name: Thesis (Ph.D.) Qualification Level: Doctoral
EThOS ID:  DOI: Not available