The smoking N-back: a measure of biased cue processing at varying levels of cognitive load.
INTRODUCTION: Recent cognitive models of drug addiction have emphasized attentional bias to drug-related cues. This bias manifests as increased accessibility to affect-laden drug-related content relative to less emotionally evocative stimuli and ideation. We examined whether biased processing of smoking-related content would differentially affect performance on a cognitive task as a function of smoking status and task complexity. METHODS: Twenty-one smokers and 15 nonsmokers completed increasingly difficult 1-, 2-, and 3-back versions of the Smoking N-back task. RESULTS: There were no reaction time effects that included smoking status nor was there an effect for accuracy on the 1-back task. However, smokers showed poorer accuracy on matched trials relative to nonmatched trials for smoking words on the 2- and 3-back tasks, which involve more effortful cognitive processing. Among nonsmokers, this effect was present within the 3-back condition only. CONCLUSIONS: These findings suggest that cognitive bias to drug-related cues may be modulated by task complexity. Future research on cognitive bias should better account for this factor. Additional research will be needed to validate these findings by controlling for various potential confounds (e.g., nicotine withdrawal, task fatigue) as well as determine the clinical relevance of cognitive bias across varying levels of task complexity.
Evans, DE; Craig, C; Oliver, JA; Drobes, DJ
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