Investigating the relationship between alcohol cue reactivity and approach motivation
Alcohol cue reactivity (ACR) is a critical component within many models of alcohol use and abuse. ACR can be conceptually defined as the physiological and subjective reactions that occur in response to alcohol related stimuli. Using a two-study design, the current research sought to investigate approach motivation and alcohol consumption as underlying mechanisms of subjective and neurophysiological ACR. Study 1 (n = 53) investigated the hypothesis that approach motivation and alcohol consumption would relate to ACR. Approach motivation did not relate to enhanced ACR. Additionally, analyses produced conflicting results concerning the impact of alcohol consumption on ACR. Heavy drinkers rated alcohol pictures higher in subjective ACR compared with light drinkers. However, light drinkers demonstrated enhanced neurophysiological ACR during alcohol consistent dot probe trials. The unpredicted results of Study 1 may have occurred due to the appetitive nature of the water pictures, which were intended to serve as a neutral comparison picture set. Study 2 (n = 132) investigated the hypothesis that inducing an approach motivation state would enhance ACR in comparison to a neutral or positive state and that this effect would be paramount for heavy drinkers. Results from Study 2 found that inducing an approach motivated state enhanced neurophysiological cue reactivity for water pictures, but not alcohol pictures. However, inducing a positive state enhanced neurophysiological cue reactivity for alcohol pictures. These results were specific to heavy drinkers. The unpredicted results of Study 2 were likely due to the writing prompt instructions used to induce an approach state. Many of the participants in this condition wrote about health focused goals that may have resulted in an aversive response to alcohol pictures instead of the intended appetitive response. Finally, research has yet to address the relationship between subjective and neurophysiological ACR. Therefore, analyses were conducted to investigate the hypothesis that approach motivation and alcohol consumption moderate the relationship between subjective and neurophysiological ACR. Approach motivation and alcohol consumption were not identified as moderator variables of the relationship between these broad categories of measurement. However, results suggest that a positive mood state may enhance the relationship between subjective and neurophysiological ACR.