Facilitated attention for gambling cues in adolescent problem gamblers: An experimental study (2019)

J Affect Disord. 2019 Jun 1;252:39-46. doi: 10.1016/j.jad.2019.04.012.

Ciccarelli M1, Cosenza M2, Griffiths MD3, Nigro G2, D’Olimpio F2.



Studies investigating attentional biases in gambling have observed that problem gamblers’ attention is biased toward gambling cues. Despite the increase of gambling among adolescents, to date, no study has ever examined the role of attentional bias in adolescent gambling, as well as the relationships between adolescent gambling severity, craving, and alcohol use.


The present study comprised 87 adolescent participants. Based on South Oaks Gambling Screen Revised for Adolescents (SOGS-RA) scores, participants were assigned to non-problem or problem gamblers groups. Participants performed a modified Posner Task (with cue presentation times at 100 and 500 ms) to assess attentional biases. Following the experiment, participants completed the Gambling Craving Scale (GACS) and the Alcohol Use Disorders Identification Test (AUDIT).


Compared to non-problem gamblers, problem gamblers displayed facilitation bias for gambling cues at 500 ms and reported higher levels of craving and alcohol consumption. Results also indicated that alcohol use correlated with facilitation bias.


The recruitment of a predominantly male sample and the use of an indirect measure of attentional bias may have affected the findings concerning attentional processes.


The present study provides the first empirical evidence of attentional processes in adolescent gambling, and confirms the role of attentional biases, craving, and alcohol use being associated factors in adolescent problem gambling. The results of the present study stress the importance of attentional biases in the initial stages of problem gambling and suggest the need for clinical interventions aimed at reducing attentional bias before they became automatic. Overall, the present study stressed the role of attentional bias as both facilitator and a consequence of gambling involvement.

KEYWORDS: Adolescent problem gambling; Alcohol use; Attentional bias; Craving; Facilitation bias; Gambling

PMID: 30978623

DOI: 10.1016/j.jad.2019.04.012