Assessment of tobacco-related approach biases in smokers, cravers, ex-smokers and non-smokers

M.L. Woud, J. Maas, R. W. Wiers, E. S. Becker, M. Rinck

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According to theories of addictive behaviors, approach and attentional biases toward smoking-related cues play a crucial role in tobacco dependence. Several studies have investigated these biases by using various paradigms in different sample types. However, this heterogeneity makes it difficult to compare and evaluate the results. The present study aimed to address this problem, via (i) a structural comparison of different measures of approach-avoidance and a measure of smoking-related attentional biases, and (ii) using within one study different representative samples in the context of tobacco dependence. Three measures of approach-avoidance were employed: an Approach Avoidance Task (AAT), a Stimulus Response Compatibility Task (SRC), and a Single Target Implicit Association Test (ST-IAT). To assess attentional biases, a modified Stroop task including smoking-related words was administered. The study included four groups: n = 58 smokers, n = 57 non-smokers, n = 52 cravers, and n = 54 ex-smokers. We expected to find strong tobacco-related approach biases and attentional biases in smokers and cravers. However, the general pattern of results did not confirm these expectations. Approach responses assessed during the AAT and SRC did not differ between groups. Moreover, the Stroop did not show the expected interference effect. For the ST-IAT, cravers had stronger approach associations toward smoking-related cues, whereas non-smokers showed stronger avoidance associations. However, no such differences in approach-avoidance associations were found in smokers and ex-smokers. To conclude, these data do not provide evidence for a strong role of implicit approach and attentional biases toward smoking-related cues in tobacco dependency.
Original languageEnglish
Article number172
JournalFrontiers in Psychology
Publication statusPublished - 2016


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