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Images of Alcohol May Create Similar Effects to Drinking Alcohol

Posted in Research

Images of Alcohol May Create Similar Effects to Drinking Alcohol	Drinking alcohol impairs driving because it slows a person’s reaction time and restricts a driver’s visual field. New research now suggests that this same focal narrowing may take place simply by viewing alcohol cues.

The study was performed by University of Alabama professor Dr. Philip Gable. Gable and others from the University’s department of psychology used electroencephalography – EEG recording – to obtain a short-term measure of the electrical activity in the brain. The research team monitored the brain activity of 42 university students as they viewed images of alcohol.

The subjects experienced a kind of myopia similar to that experienced by those who actually consume alcohol. Gable said that his study shows that visual cues not only trigger this narrowed field of attention, but can also be predictive about future drinking choices.

One reason this information is useful is that it helps to explain how people become blind to negative consequences associated with drinking. Dr. Gable believes heavier drinkers are even more highly attuned to visual cues, and understanding this could impact treatment. In other words, the more a person drinks the more alcohol could negatively impact their visual acuity.

The University of Alabama study complements earlier research showing alcohol cues impacting self-perception. Other studies have demonstrated how these kinds of cues can work to boost feelings of power or attractiveness. Dr. Gable’s study shows how these cues impact perception of one’s surroundings.

The power of visual imagery is good news for marketers. Glossy pictures of a frosty mug of beer or a martini glass really do initiate biological responses that make it more likely a person will drink. But for those caught up in the wake of the heavy drinker it means dealing with a person with an inflated sense of self-importance who simultaneously isn’t seeing what’s around them clearly.

Dr. Gable asserts that the more a person drinks, the more sensitized they will be to visual alcohol cues, but he comes short of citing these cues as a cause for alcohol abuse. As with all other addictions, abuse of alcohol is likely the result of several contributing factors. Billboards depicting glasses of wine or bottles of beer may encourage drinking, but they cannot be blamed for alcohol abuse. Nevertheless, understanding how the body reacts to visual cues can be helpful in treating a person ready to overcome an alcohol addiction problem.