An Attentional Control Task Reduces Intrusive Thoughts About Smoking
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INTRODUCTION: Attentional control tasks such as body scanning and following isometric exercise instructions have been shown to reduce smoking cravings, apparently by reducing stress (Ussher, M., Cropley, M., Playle, S., Mohidin, R., & West, R. . Effect of isometric exercise and body scanning on cigarette cravings and withdrawal symptoms. Addiction, 104, 1251-1257. doi:10.1111/j.1360-0443.2009.02605.x). Related work based upon elaborated intrusion theory (Kavanagh, D. J., Andrade, J., & May, J. . Imaginary relish and exquisite torture: The elaborated intrusion theory of desire. Psychological Review, 112, 446-467. doi:10.1037/0033-295X.112.2.446) has shown that similar tasks can reduce hungry participants' involuntary food-related thoughts (May, J., Andrade, J., Batey, H., Berry, L.-M., & Kavanagh, D. . Less food for thought: Impact of attentional instructions on intrusive thoughts about snack foods. Appetite, 55, 279-287. doi:10.1016/j.appet.2010.06.014). This study tests the effect of body scanning instructions upon smoking-related thoughts as well as craving. METHODS: Twenty-seven smokers took part in 2 counterbalanced sessions, on different days, having been asked to abstain from smoking for 2 hr. In each session, they followed audio instructions for three 10-min blocks during which their thoughts were probed 10 times. In the first and third blocks, they were instructed to let their mind wander; during the second block of the control session, they also let their mind wander, but in the experimental session, they followed body scanning instructions. "Smoking thought frequency" was assessed using thought probes; "Craving" was measured using Factor 1 of the Questionnaire on Smoking Urges (Tiffany, S. T., & Drobes, D. J. . The development and initial validation of a questionnaire on smoking urges. British Journal of Addiction, 86, 1467-1476. doi:10.1111/j.1360-0443.1991.tb01732.x). RESULTS: Participants reported fewer smoking-related thoughts and lower smoking cravings in the body scanning block of the experimental session, whereas they rose in the comparable mind-wandering block of the control session. The reduction in thoughts during the body scanning correlated with the corresponding reduction in craving. CONCLUSIONS: Body scanning reduces cravings and reduces the frequency or shortens the duration of smoking thoughts. Attentional control strategies may form a useful part of smoking cessation practices.
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