Recent dissertation topics

Attentional bias and drug taking

A greater understanding of the mechanisms directing of attention towards salient stimuli, termed attentional bias, may help elucidate the mechanisms involved in the motivation smoke, and the motivation to drink in problem drinkers.  In addiction, a hyper-attentive state may develop towards drug-related cues, characterised as an attention bias to such cues.  Such a bias, developed through associative learning, may help explain maintenance of drug taking and processes driving craving and relapse.  Although a number of studies have been undertaken to investigate whether there is a differential smoking-related or alcohol-related attentional bias in heavy smokers and drinkers (respectively), the findings so far are inconclusive. 
We have used a number of attentional tasks to investigate these phenomena in smokers and drinkers.  Smokers/drinkers show an attentional bias towards drug-related cues, whereas control participants doe not.  The results from these studies may help us understand the attentional processes promoting the desire to take alcohol in problem drinkers.

Young AMJ, Aley E & Russell A (2009) Heavy drinkers show attentional bias to alcohol related stimuli in a novel conditioning task.  Procedings of the Experimental Psychology Society.

Russell A (2009)  Effects of Stimulus Salience on Attention in Heavy, Moderate and Light Drinkers

Motivation for, and attitudes to, drug taking

Incentive motivation theory suggests that the motivation for drug taking lies in the pursuit of positive incentives and avoidance of negative incentives, and that incentives can be derived from factors such as previous experience, peer influence, subcultural/environmental factors.
Cooper (1994) suggested four basic motives for drinking: enhancement (looking to enhance positive mood); coping (regulating negative emotions); social looking to obtain positive social rewards); conformity (looking to fit in).

In studying drug taking behaviour, we have concentrated on legal and socially acceptable drug taking, such as drinking and smoking.  We have studies personality factors, and motivations to drink heavilly, to binge drink and to smoke in student populations, and found evidence of effects of several of these factors.  Furter studies are needed in order (1) to ascertain specific factors involved, (2) to illucidate interactions between factors, (3) and to look at different populations.  We also want to look at whether the motivations are similar for different types of drug, how taking of different types of drugs interact, whether taking of legal drugs can lead on to taking illicit drugs (gateway theory), and what personality and motivational factors are involved.

  • Crane R. (2009) Do Students Represent a Binge Drinking Society? Investigating the Motivational Factors that Influence their Behaviour
  • Fitzgerald K-A (2009)  The influence of drinking motives and anxiety on problem and non-problem drinkers.

  • Goulding J (2009)  Rightward Attentional Bias as a Predictor of Increased Sensation Seeking and Sensitivity to Addictive Behaviours, with Conformity and Parental Control as Mediating Factors

  • Pattison K-A (2009)  Personality and Addiction

  • Lavender S (2004) Student binge drinking: an examination of the underlying psychological factors. 

Bomben R (2009)  Side-Bias: Assessing the influence of Attentional Cues, Handedness, Eyedness and Schizotypy

Share this page:

Open Office Hours

My Open Office  hours are :

  • Mon 4:00 to 5:00
  • Thurs 11:00 to 12:00

You do not need an appointment at these times: just turn up. 

If you cannot manage these times, please contact me, and we can fix an alternative time.

Research Day


Contact the Department

Department of Neuroscience, Psychology and Behaviour
University of Leicester
University Road

T: +44 (0)116 252 2922


AccessAble logo

The University of Leicester is committed to equal access to our facilities. DisabledGo has detailed accessibility guides for the George Davies Centre, the Adrian Building and the Maurice Shock Medical Sciences Building.