A Test of Positive Affect Induction for Countering Self-Control Depletion in Cigarette Smokers


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Abstract

The self-control strength model posits that exerting self-control on one task, such as resisting temptations, will deplete self-control and impair subsequent self-regulatory performance, such as controlling smoking. The current study examined interventions designed to replenish depleted self-control strength to prevent tobacco use by inducing positive affect. In a 2 × 2 design, 200 participants were randomized to either (1) resist eating from a plate of desserts (high temptation) or from a plate of raw vegetables (low temptation) and then (2) undergo a positive or neutral affect induction. Two inductions were compared (video vs. writing technique). Participants were then given a 10-min recess. Whether or not participants smoked during the recess, assessed by self-report and biochemical verification, served as the primary dependent variable. The interaction between depletion and exposure group was significant, Wald's χ2 = 9.66, df = 3, p < .05. Among those assigned to resist desserts, 65.5% to 85% smoked if they were in the neutral video or writing conditions versus 10.5% in the positive affect video group. Positive affect elicited with a video was able to counteract the detrimental effects of self-control depletion on smoking behavior, while writing exercises were associated with smoking. Implications for tobacco cessation intervention are discussed.

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