The effect of approach/avoidance training on alcohol consumption is mediated by change in alcohol action tendency
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Training people to respond to alcohol images by making avoidance joystick movements can affect subsequent alcohol consumption, and has shown initial efficacy as a treatment adjunct. However, the mechanisms that underlie the training's efficacy are unknown. The present study aimed to determine 1) whether the training's effect is mediated by a change in action tendency or a change in selective attention, and 2) whether the training's effect is moderated by individual differences in working memory capacity (WMC). Three groups of social drinkers (total N = 74) completed either approach-alcohol training, avoid-alcohol training or a sham-training on the Approach-Avoidance Task (AAT). Participants' WMC was assessed prior to training, while their alcohol-related action tendency and selective attention were assessed before and after the training on the recently developed Selective-Attention/Action Tendency Task (SA/ATT), before finally completing an alcohol taste-test. There was no significant main effect of approach/avoidance training on alcohol consumption during the taste-test. However, there was a significant indirect effect of training on alcohol consumption mediated by a change in action tendency, but no indirect effect mediated by a change in selective attention. There was inconsistent evidence of WMC moderating training efficacy, with moderation found only for the effect of approach-alcohol training on the AAT but not on the SA/ATT. Thus approach/avoidance training affects alcohol consumption specifically by changing the underlying action tendency. Multiple training sessions may be required in order to observe more substantive changes in drinking behaviour.
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