The Incentive Sensitization Theory of Addiction claims that drug induced sensitization of the mesocorticolymbic system increases the salience of the drug related stimuli. In so doing, drug related stimuli become attention grabbing for an addictive person. We tried to understand the socio-cognitive underpinnings of this process in case of alcohol addiction. The present study involves a group of participants that had alcohol related problems and a non clinical sample. We suggest that two implicit automatic mechanisms could predict the attention towards alcohol related stimuli: the self relevance of the alcohol related stimuli and the evaluation attributed to the same stimuli. The Implicit Association Task was used to determine the strength of these mechanisms (i.e., self-relevance and alcohol evaluation). The attention toward alcohol related stimuli was assessed with the Visual Dot Probe Task. Results showed that the two groups significantly differed on the IAT scores, indicating stronger associations between self and alcohol, and between alcohol and positive words for participants that had alcohol related problems. Moreover a stronger association between the self and the alcohol was a significant and positive predictor of the attentional salience of the alcohol stimuli for the clinical sample, but not for the control group.
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