Attentional retraining and cognitive biases in a regular cannabis smoking student population

P.A. Wolf, E. Salemink, Reinout W Wiers

Research output: Contribution to journalArticleAcademicpeer-review


AimRepeated drug use can lead to attentional bias and approach tendencies, which are thought to play an important role in problematic substance use and dependence. The aims of the current study were to 1) test an attentional retraining procedure in a sample of moderate and heavy cannabis using students and 2) compare baseline attentional and approach bias between the two groups with different implicit measures.Design and participantsAttentional bias scores toward cannabis-related or neutral stimuli were determined with modified versions of the Visual Probe Task and the cannabis Stroop task. Approach and avoidance action tendencies toward cannabis-related and neutral stimuli were assessed with the cannabis Approach-Avoidance Task (AAT) and the Stimulus Response Compatibility task (SRC). Seventeen participants were assigned randomly to five sessions of an attentional retraining procedure or control training.ResultsAttentional retraining did not decrease the speeded detection of cannabis stimuli and the difficulty to disengage from those stimuli, no trainingseffects were revealed. Moderate cannabis users did not show an attentional bias for cannabis-related cues (measured with the cannabis Stroop task), whereas heavy cannabis users did show an attentional bias for cannabis-related stimuli that cannot be attributed to cognitive control deficits on the classical Stroop task. Moreover, heavy cannabis users, but not moderate users, were significant faster to approach cannabis images compared to neutral images, using the SRC task. Conclusion Seen the observed difference in cognitive biases towards cannabis stimuli between moderate and heavy cannabis users, this study supports the allegation that cognitive biases towards cannabis stimuli may be an important marker of problematic cannabis use.
Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)355-365
JournalSucht: Zeitschrift für Wissenschaft und Praxis
Issue number6
Publication statusPublished - 2016
Externally publishedYes


  • Cannabis
  • attentional bias
  • approach bias
  • cognitive bias modification
  • retraining


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