An effect of alcohol on the distribution of spatial attention

Robert B. Post, Lori A. Lott, Richard J Maddock, Jill I. Beede

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

25 Scopus citations


Objective: Previous research on the effects of alcohol on visual performance led us to the prediction that alcohol should interfere with the distribution of visual spatial attention. This prediction was examined in two experiments that measured the effect of alcohol on reaction time (RT) for tasks that differed in visual spatial attention requirements. Method: In the first experiment, 48 adult volunteers (33 female) responded to either the onset or offset of one of five potential targets without alcohol to determine the relative demands on attention of stimulus onset and offset. The spatial extent of the five-target display was also varied. In the second experiment, the effect of alcohol was determined for both the onset and the offset tasks in 12 adult volunteers (nine female). Results: The offset task was found to place greater demands on spatial attention as the increase in display area resulted in relatively greater increases in RT. Alcohol increased RT in the offset task for the larger, but not the smaller, display, and there were no significant effects of alcohol for the onset task. Conclusions: The results indicate that alcohol impairs performance on tasks that place greater demands on visual spatial attention and likely disrupts the ability to shift attention from one spatial locus to another during serial search.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)260-266
Number of pages7
JournalJournal of Studies on Alcohol
Issue number3
StatePublished - May 1996

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Medicine (miscellaneous)
  • Psychology(all)


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