Self-Control Of Smoking: When Does Narrowed Attention Help?

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Journal Of Applied Social Psychology


Two studies examined the capacity of cognitive load to enhance or disrupt the self-control of smoking in the presence of situational pressures that either promote or discourage the behavior. In Study 1, participants who were exposed to cues encouraging smoking smoked more under high cognitive load than under low cognitive load. In Study 2, participants who were exposed to cues discouraging smoking smoked less under high load than under low load. Cognitive load appears to narrow attention, resulting in a state of attentional myopia, which leads to disinhibited smoking behavior when pressures to smoke are disproportionately salient and enhanced control of smoking when pressures not to smoke are disproportionately salient. Implications for smoking cessation are discussed.