The Two Faces of Alcohol Myopia: Attentional Mediation of Psychological Stress

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Abstract

Two studies provided evidence that alcohol's relationship to psychological stress is indirect and is mediated by the allocation of attention. Study I found that, as the attentional demands of a distracting activity increased, so did alcohol's reduction of anxiety. Study 2 replicated this effect and found that a highly demanding activity could reduce anxiety even without alcohol. This study further implicated the role of attention in anxiety reduction by demonstrating a relationship between changes in anxiety and response latency to a secondary monitoring task. Finally, in both experiments, intoxicated subjects who did not perform any activity showed an increase in anxiety. From these data, we argue that alcohol affects psychological stress, to an important degree, through its ability, in conjunction with ongoing activity, to affect the amount of attention paid to stressful thoughts.

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