Date of Award

August 2020

Degree Type


Degree Name

Doctor of Philosophy (PhD)




Stephen A. Maisto


alcohol, attention, cognition, coping motivation, stress

Subject Categories

Social and Behavioral Sciences


Research suggests that exposure to stressors is associated with greater alcohol consumption, more alcohol-related problems, and a greater likelihood of Alcohol Use Disorder. Theory suggests that cognitive processes, particularly unconscious cognitive processes, are key in determining a coping strategy but both alcohol and chronic exposure to stressors may interfere with these processes. The current study tested one such process, attention bias to alcohol cues, as a mediator in the stressor-alcohol relationship. Thirty-nine participants who endorsed hazardous alcohol consumption patterns were recruited from the community; eligible participants were randomly assigned to a stress-exposure or non-stressful control condition. Participants completed assessments of stress response and alcohol craving before and after exposure to the stressor, and an assessment of alcohol attention bias following stress exposure. Outcome measures were change in alcohol craving and ad libitum alcohol consumption. Analyses included ANCOVAs to test for group differences in outcomes by condition, and serial mediation models to test the stress response and alcohol attention bias as serial mediators using path analysis in Mplus with the model indirect command. Results revealed no significant differences in alcohol outcomes by condition and no significant serial mediation effect of the stress response and alcohol attention bias on the stressor-alcohol relationship. The direction of the coefficients were largely in the anticipated direction, which may suggest a lack of power to detect significant effects due to small sample size. Alternative explanations for null findings include reliability of the measurement of attention bias and sample characteristics, which highlight important considerations for future research.


Open Access