When alcohol narrows the field of focal attention

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The aim of this study was to measure the extent to which alcohol intoxication restricts the scope of attention in the visual field. A group of intoxicated (n = 31; mean BAC ≈ .08%) and placebo control (n = 31; mean BAC ≈ .00%) participants were required to correctly identify visual probes while performing two verbal categorization tasks: one designed to widen the scope of visual attention on to each stimulus word, the other to narrow attention on to the central letter of each word. Response times to surprise probes interpolated between categorization trials were measured and these catch trials could appear in any of the stimulus word letter positions. As predicted by alcohol myopia theory (AMT), which assumes that the drug narrows focal attention, intoxicated participants made slower responses than the sober controls to probes displayed in non-central letter positions, although right-field probe reaction times (RTs) were slower than those for left-field targets. This response asymmetry and the wider theoretical implications of these findings are discussed.
Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)669-677
JournalThe Quarterly Journal of Experimental Psychology Section A
Issue number4
Early online date15 May 2015
Publication statusPublished - 2 Apr 2016
Externally publishedYes


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