Attentional bias for nondrug reward is magnified in addiction

Brian A. Anderson, Monica L. Faulkner, Jessica J. Rilee, Steven Yantis, Cherie L. Marvel

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

78 Scopus citations


Attentional biases for drug-related stimuli play a prominent role in addiction, predicting treatment outcomes. Attentional biases also develop for stimuli that have been paired with nondrug rewards in adults without a history of addiction, the magnitude of which is predicted by visual working-memory capacity and impulsiveness. We tested the hypothesis that addiction is associated with an increased attentional bias for nondrug (monetary) reward relative to that of healthy controls, and that this bias is related to working-memory impairments and increased impulsiveness. Seventeen patients receiving methadone-maintenance treatment for opioid dependence and 17 healthy controls participated. Impulsiveness was measured using the Barratt Impulsiveness Scale (BIS-11; Patton, Stanford, & Barratt, 1995), visual working-memory capacity was measured as the ability to recognize briefly presented color stimuli, and attentional bias was measured as the magnitude of response time slowing caused by irrelevant but previously reward-associated distractors in a visual-search task. The results showed that attention was biased toward the distractors across all participants, replicating previous findings. It is important to note, this bias was significantly greater in the patients than in the controls and was negatively correlated with visual working-memory capacity. Patients were also significantly more impulsive than controls as a group. Our findings demonstrate that patients in treatment for addiction experience greater difficulty ignoring stimuli associated with nondrug reward. This nonspecific reward-related bias could mediate the distracting quality of drug-related stimuli previously observed in addiction.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)499-506
Number of pages8
JournalExperimental and clinical psychopharmacology
Issue number6
StatePublished - Dec 2013


  • Attention
  • Impulsiveness
  • Learning
  • Reward
  • Working memory

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Pharmacology
  • Psychiatry and Mental health
  • Pharmacology (medical)


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