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Nicotine Tob Res. 2014 Aug;16(8):1085-93. doi: 10.1093/ntr/ntu033. Epub 2014 Apr 1.

Hostility and cigarette use: a comparison between smokers and nonsmokers in a matched sample of adolescents.

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  • 1Department of Psychology, University of Rhode Island, Kingston, RI;
  • 2Center for Alcohol and Addiction Studies, Department of Psychiatry and Human Behavior, Brown University, Providence, RI;
  • 3Center for Alcohol and Addiction Studies, and Department of Behavioral and Social Sciences, Brown University, Providence, RI;
  • 4Department of Preventive Medicine and Department of Psychology, University of Southern California, Los Angeles, CA.



We examined the association between hostility-a personality trait reflective of negativity and cynicism toward others-and smoking in adolescents by measuring (a) several subcomponents of hostility, and (b) facial emotion processing ability, which has been previously linked to hostility.


Participants (N = 241 aged 14-19) were 95 smokers and 95 demographically matched nonsmokers as well as 51 nonmatched smokers. All participants completed the Cook-Medley (C-M) hostility scale, which provides a general hostility score and 3 component scores (cynicism, hypersensitivity, and aggressive responding), and a facial emotion processing task. This task, designed to assess emotion recognition, requires quickly identifying the emotion of faces that gradually morph from neutral to high-intensity happy, angry, or fearful.


Independent sample t tests indicated that matched smokers scored significantly higher in cynicism and aggressive responding than nonsmokers. Among smokers, age of smoking onset was negatively correlated with general hostility and aggressive responding. All hostility scales were positively correlated with the intensity needed to recognize happy faces. Counterintuitively, smokers required a greater intensity to recognize angry faces than nonsmokers. No other relations between hostility/smoking status and facial emotion processing were observed.


Aspects of hostility, particularly aggressive responding, may be a risk factor for early onset smoking. Although hostile participants exhibited a deficiency in their ability to recognize happiness in facial pictures, these results did not translate to differences in smoking status. This study elucidates some of the complex interrelations between hostility, emotion processing, and adolescent smoking, which may have implications for teen smoking prevention.

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