, Volume 201, Issue 1, pp 29–41 | Cite as

The role of attentional bias in mediating human drug-seeking behaviour

  • Lee HogarthEmail author
  • Anthony Dickinson
  • Molly Janowski
  • Aleksandra Nikitina
  • Theodora DukaEmail author
Original Investigation



The attentional bias for drug cues is believed to be a causal cognitive process mediating human drug seeking and relapse.

Objectives, methods and results

To test this claim, we trained smokers on a tobacco conditioning procedure in which the conditioned stimulus (or S+) acquired parallel control of an attentional bias (measured with an eye tracker), tobacco expectancy and instrumental tobacco-seeking behaviour. Although this correlation between measures may be regarded as consistent with the claim that the attentional bias for the S+ mediated tobacco seeking, when a secondary task was added in the test phase, the attentional bias for the S+ was abolished, yet the control of tobacco expectancy and tobacco seeking remained intact.


This dissociation suggests that the attentional bias for drug cues is not necessary for the control that drug cues exert over drug-seeking behaviour. The question raised by these data is what function does the attentional bias serve if it does not mediate drug seeking?


Human attentional bias Drug conditioning Drug seeking Interference Addiction Abuse Attention Conditioned Behavior 



This work was supported by a Biotechnology and Biological Research Council grant (BBS/B/09384) and was completed in the lab of Theodora Duka at the University of Sussex. The authors would like to thank Dr. Mathew Field and Dr. Marcus Munafo for their helpful comments on an earlier draft of this manuscript.


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Copyright information

© Springer-Verlag 2008

Authors and Affiliations

  1. 1.School of PsychologyUniversity of Nottingham, University ParkNottinghamUK
  2. 2.Department of Experimental PsychologyUniversity of CambridgeCambridgeUK
  3. 3.Laboratory of Experimental Psychology, School of Life SciencesUniversity of SussexBrightonUK

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