Raising the bar: improving methodological rigour in cognitive alcohol research

Pennington, C. R., Jones, A., Bartlett, J. E. , Copeland, A. and Shaw, D. J. (2021) Raising the bar: improving methodological rigour in cognitive alcohol research. Addiction, 116(11), pp. 3243-3251. (doi: 10.1111/add.15563) (PMID:33999479)

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Background and Aims: A range of experimental paradigms claim to measure the cognitive processes underpinning alcohol use, suggesting that heightened attentional bias, greater approach tendencies and reduced cue-specific inhibitory control are important drivers of consumption. This paper identifies methodological shortcomings within this broad domain of research and exemplifies them in studies focused specifically on alcohol-related attentional bias. Argument and analysis: We highlight five main methodological issues: (i) the use of inappropriately matched control stimuli; (ii) opacity of stimulus selection and validation procedures; (iii) a credence in noisy measures; (iv) a reliance on unreliable tasks; and (v) variability in design and analysis. This is evidenced through a review of alcohol-related attentional bias (64 empirical articles, 68 tasks), which reveals the following: only 53% of tasks use appropriately matched control stimuli; as few as 38% report their stimulus selection and 19% their validation procedures; less than 28% used indices capable of disambiguating attentional processes; 22% assess reliability; and under 2% of studies were pre-registered. Conclusions: Well-matched and validated experimental stimuli, the development of reliable cognitive tasks and explicit assessment of their psychometric properties, and careful consideration of behavioural indices and their analysis will improve the methodological rigour of cognitive alcohol research. Open science principles can facilitate replication and reproducibility in alcohol research.

Item Type:Articles
Glasgow Author(s) Enlighten ID:Bartlett, Dr James and Jones, Andrew
Creator Roles:
Jones, A.Data curation, Formal analysis, Investigation, Methodology, Validation
Bartlett, J. E.Investigation
Authors: Pennington, C. R., Jones, A., Bartlett, J. E., Copeland, A., and Shaw, D. J.
College/School:College of Science and Engineering > School of Psychology
College of Medical Veterinary and Life Sciences > School of Psychology & Neuroscience
Journal Name:Addiction
ISSN (Online):1360-0443
Published Online:17 May 2021
Copyright Holders:Copyright © 2021 The Authors
First Published:First published in Addiction 116(11): 3243-3251
Publisher Policy:Reproduced under a Creative Commons License
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