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Health Psychol. 2003 Jul;22(4):378-87.

Attentional bias predicts outcome in smoking cessation.

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  • 1Lombardi Cancer Center, Georgetown University, USA.


Most attempts to quit smoking end in failure, with many quitters relapsing in the first few days. Responses to smoking-related cues may precipitate relapse. A modified emotional Stroop task-which measures the extent to which smoking-related words disrupt performance on a reaction time (RT) task-was used to index the distracting effects of smoking-related cues. Smokers (N = 158) randomized to a high-dose nicotine patch (35 mg) or placebo patch completed the Stroop task on the 1st day of a quit attempt. Smokers using an active patch exhibited less attentional bias, making fewer errors on smoking-related words. Smokers who showed greater attentional bias (slowed RT on the first block of smoking words) were significantly more likely to lapse in the short-term, even when controlling for self-reported urges at the test session. Attentional bias measures may tap an important component of dependence.

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