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J Psychopharmacol. 2003 Sep;17(3):310-6.

Selective processing of smoking-related cues in current smokers, ex-smokers and never-smokers on the modified Stroop task.

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Cancer Research UK General Practice Research Group, University of Oxford, UK.


The aim of this study was to investigate selective processing biases towards smoking-related stimuli in relation to acute abstinence and smoking history. Differences in the processing of smoking-related and control cues in current smokers, ex-smokers and never-smokers on the modified Stroop task were investigated, with smokers randomized to either abstain or smoke normally for a period of 24 h. The results indicated no significant effect of deprivation (abstinent versus non-abstinent smokers), or of smoking history (ex- versus never-smokers) on colour-naming times for smoking-related versus control words. However, there was a significant effect of smoking status (current versus non-smokers) on colour-naming times for smoking words compared to control words (i.e. slower colour-naming of smoking-related words in smokers). This effect approached significance when stimuli were presented in a masked exposure condition. Among smokers, colour-naming interference was associated with the personality trait of Sensitivity to Reward. These results indicate a processing bias for smoking-related cues in current smokers. However, this bias does not appear to be a permanent feature of nicotine addiction, given the lack of difference between ex-smokers and never-smokers.

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