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Does the smell of alcohol make it harder to resist? The impact of olfactory cues on inhibitory control and attentional bias

Authors
  • Monk, R. L.
  • Qureshi, A.
  • Wernham, G.
  • Heim, D.
Type
Published Article
Journal
Psychopharmacology
Publication Date
May 26, 2022
Volume
239
Issue
7
Pages
2109–2118
Identifiers
DOI: 10.1007/s00213-022-06073-0
PMID: 35618859
PMCID: PMC9205803
Source
PubMed Central
Keywords
Disciplines
  • Original Investigation
License
Unknown

Abstract

Background It is well known that, owing to associative processing, olfactory cues can impact memory, emotion and behaviour. Research also points to a link between the smells of particular substances and craving. Yet, to date, little research has investigated how smell may impact other cognitive processes that are known to drive alcohol consumption. Aim To assess how exposure to alcohol-related (vodka) relative to neutral (citrus) olfactory cues impacts inhibitory control and attentional bias. Method Participants took part in a go/no-go (Study 1) and Stroop task (Study 2) while wearing masks that were pre-treated with vodka or citrus oil of equivalent intensity. Study 1 results Response error rates were higher in participants in the alcohol-related (versus neutral) olfactory condition, with no interaction between olfactory and visual cue. Study 2 results Responses to alcohol-related versus neutral words were similar, while performance appeared significantly impaired among participants wearing alcohol (relative to citrus) infused masks. Conclusion The smell of alcohol may impair signal detection performance on the go/no-go and Stroop task. As inhibitory control and attentional processes are known to be associated with decisions to drink or exercise restraint, these results may have implications for our understanding of alcohol consumption and for tailoring interventions. Supplementary Information The online version contains supplementary material available at 10.1007/s00213-022-06073-0.

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