Implicit attitudes towards smoking predict long-term relapse in abstinent smokers
Faculty of Medicine and Health Sciences
Psychopharmacology. - Berlin
, p. 2551-2561
University of Antwerp
It has previously been argued that implicit attitudes toward substance-related cues drive addictive behavior. Nevertheless, it remains an open question whether behavioral markers of implicit attitude activation can be used to predict long-term relapse. The main objective of this study was to examine the relationship between implicit attitudes toward smoking-related cues and long-term relapse in abstaining smokers. Implicit attitudes toward smoking-related cues were assessed by means of the Implicit Association Test (IAT) and the evaluative priming task (EPT). Both measures were completed by a group of smokers who volunteered to quit smoking (patient group) and a group of nonsmokers (control group). Participants in the patient group completed these measures twice: once prior to smoking cessation and once after smoking cessation. Relapse was assessed by means of short telephone survey, 6 months after completion of the second test session. EPT scores obtained prior to smoking cessation were related to long-term relapse and correlated with self-reported nicotine dependence as well as daily cigarette consumption. In contrast, none of the behavioral outcome measures were found to correlate with the IAT scores. These findings corroborate the idea that implicit attitudes toward substance-related cues are critically involved in long-term relapse. A potential explanation for the divergent findings obtained with the IAT and EPT is provided.