Impulsive People More Committed to Feel Good

Attention to details regarding positive memories are hard to ignore

(RxWiki News) Ever seen a man with a wicked smile on his face? There is a good chance he saw something that reminded him of a wonderful memory. People just cannot ignore visual stimuli that remind them of a rewarding experience.

Brian Anderson, a graduate student in the Department of Psychological and Brain Sciences at John Hopkins University and co-author of this study reports that it is known that not everyone who takes drugs becomes addicted to them. Those who do become addicted to drugs and alcohol have a connection between their addictive substance and euphoria.

"See your therapist when addictions become overbearing."

This euphoria seems to "rewire" the brain with a desire to revisit the sense of euphoria. Reward-related objects capture the attention of addicts quite readily. For example, a happy hour sign would not ever be overlooked by a recovering alcoholic as it would remind him of the stimulus he received while drinking.

Understanding why some people are more likely  to become tantalized by reward-related objects could lead to different treatments for addictions. 

In the study, participants were told to search for red or green circles in a computer screen full of circles of different colors. Finding a red circle yielded a participant 10 cents and finding a green circle was worth one penny. 

After doing this for more than an hour and possibly collecting a buck or two, the activity was changed for the same participants. The next computer search was shape based with no significance given to colors. With the coins still jingling in their pockets, the participants couldn't help still being drawn to the colors red and green.

When red or green objects popped up,the study subjects' responses slowed down as they were bedazzled by the former reward colors.

In addition, the participants also completed a questionnaire to measure their impulsivity. The participants deemed the most impulsive were also most prone to be destracted by red and green objects.

According to Yantis, an overwhelming number of people in the study became distracted by the red or green objects, even though they had been instructed to ignore those items,  the items were inconspicuous and had no relevance to the task at hand.

Steven Yantis, a professor and chair of psychological and brain sciences at The Johns Hopkins University observes that it was clear to the researchers that red and green items, which were related to money , continued to be linked in their minds with reward.

Review Date: 
June 7, 2011