PITTSBURGHA new study from researchers at the University of Pittsburgh and Carnegie Mellon University sheds light on why smokers' intentions to quit "cold turkey" often fizzle out within days or even hours.
If a smoker isn't yearning for a cigarette when he makes the decision to kick the habitand most aren'the isn't able to foresee how he will feel when he's in need of a nicotine buzz.
Published in the September issue of Psychological Science, a journal of the Association for Psychological Science, the study, "Exploring the Cold-to-Hot Empathy Gap in Smokers," bolsters the theory that smokers not in a state of craving a cigarette will underestimate and underpredict the intensity of their future urge to smoke.
"We have observed previously that the idea of smoking a cigarette becomes increasingly attractive to smokers while they are craving," said the study's lead investigator and University of Pittsburgh professor of psychology Michael Sayette. "This study suggests that when smokers are not craving, they fail to appreciate just how powerful their cravings will be. This lack of insight while not craving may lead them to make decisionssuch as choosing to attend a party where there will be lots of smokingthat they may come to regret."
The study looked at the cold-to-hot empathy gapthat is, the tendency for people in a "cold" state (not influenced by such visceral factors as hunger, fatigue) to mispredict their own behavior when in a "hot" state (hungry, fatigued), in part because they can't remember the intensity of their past cravings.
The researchers gathered 98 male and female smokers for two experimental sessions and placed them in one of three groups: "hot," "cold," and a comparison group. Those in a "hot" state were asked to abstain from smoking for 12 hours prior to Session 1 and then were induced to crave a cigarette by holding, but not smoking, a lit one.
Those in a "cold" state smoked up until
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University of Pittsburgh