Efficacy Expectation Changes as a Function of Hypothetical Incentives in Smokers

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The present study examined the role of hypothetical incentives in altering efficacy expectations as a function of situational characteristics. Smokers were asked for efficacy estimates in refraining from cigarettes for gradually increasing periods of time, and for estimates of their ability to shoot a basketball through a hoop from gradually increasing distances. Results indicate a different influence of incentives on the two tasks. Whereas the efficacy expectations for the basketball task were not malleable, efficacy expectations for smoking cessation were reliably modified by hypothetical incentives. The results suggest that, at least for some tasks, efficacy expectations and self-referent behavioral predictions are synonymous. In a choice situation, such as smoking or not smoking, behavioral predictions can be modified by increasing the reinforcement available for one of the choices. When performance levels depend on skills that test the subjects' capacity (e.g., making the basket, lifting a 16-ton weight), no such adjustment through reinforcement is possible.

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