Exposure to in Vivo Stimuli and Attentional Bias Among Female Smokers

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Abstract

Cross-sectional and experimental research has shown that female smokers use cigarettes to manage dietary restraint and body image dissatisfaction. The goal of this study was to investigate the cross-motivational impact of food and cigarettes by comparing attentional bias to smoking images against other images (food and jewelry) and testing how in vivo stimuli (cigarettes, food, and jewelry) affect attentional bias to these images. Thirty-five female smokers completed 3 image-viewing tasks during which they viewed images containing smoking, food, and jewelry pictorial stimuli. During these tasks, participants held smoking, food, or jewelry in vivo stimuli, and eye-tracking technology collected gaze data. We hypothesized that in vivo appetitive stimuli would produce attentional bias, with in vivo smoking stimuli increasing attention to smoking images and in vivo food stimuli increasing attention to smoking and food images. However, in vivo cigarettes and snack foods did not prime attentional biases to pictorial smoking or food stimuli. Yet, initial and maintained attention to smoking images were greater than attention to food and jewelry images when participants were administered an active comparison in vivo stimulus (jewelry). The results in this in vivo condition replicate previous research demonstrating attentional biases for smoking images among smokers, and they extend it by including the appetitive food comparison condition. These results also show that attention allocation changes when smokers encounter appetitive in vivo stimuli. Thus, this study demonstrates that establishing external validity in attentional bias research is challenging, and it encourages further psychometric exploration of such methodologies through other procedural manipulations.

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