Reward-Related Attentional Biases and Adolescent Substance Use: The TRAILS Study

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Abstract

Current cognitive-motivational theories of addiction propose that prioritizing appetitive, reward-related information (attentional bias) plays a vital role in the development and maintenance of substance abuse. This study focused on reward-related attentional processes that might be involved in young-adolescent substance use. Participants were young adolescents (N = 682, mean age = 16.14), who completed a motivated game in the format of a spatial orienting task as a behavioral index of appetitive-related attentional processes and a questionnaire to index substance (alcohol, tobacco, and cannabis) use. Correlational analysis showed a positive relationship between substance use and enhanced attentional engagement, with cues that predicted potential reward and nonpunishment. These results are consistent with the view that adolescents who show a generally enhanced appetitive bias might be at increased risk for developing heavier substance use.

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