Can cigarette cues hamper the ability of a dependent smoker to correctly identify a target?

Open Access
Reilly, Katharine
Area of Honors:
Bachelor of Science
Document Type:
Thesis Supervisors:
  • Dr Stephen Wilson, Thesis Supervisor
  • Stephen Jeffrey Wilson, Thesis Supervisor
  • Kenneth Levy, Honors Advisor
  • smoking stimuli
  • smoking cues
  • attention based tasks
Emotionally salient stimuli can have direct and powerful impacts on an individual’s attention. Previous studies have demonstrated that negative or emotional stimuli create an attentional bias that has the ability to negatively affect an individual’s immediate thought processing. Similarly, the current study investigated whether exposure to smoking images could be as distracting as negative images (e.g. mutilated bodies) for dependent smokers. The present study used rapid serial visual presentation (RSVP) to show participants 17 images in succession (1ms/image) and then asked the participant to identify the direction the target image was rotated (a building rotated 90° to the left or right). A trial consisted of a stream of landscape pictures with either a neutral, negative, or cigarette image as a critical distractor located either 2 or 8 images after the target image. After each trial, the participant was asked if the target image was rotated to the left or the right. We hypothesized that participants would be less accurate in target rotation identification in the smoking and negative conditions when compared to the neutral condition. The results indicated that smoking cues do not have a significant, negative effect on a smoker’s ability to identify a known target. Smoking and neutral conditions yielded comparable results; however the negative condition impaired the participants mean accuracies and increased their reaction times in the lag 2 position. It was discovered that mean reaction time was more dependent on the condition of the critical distractor, rather than the placement and increased when the participant was presented with a negative distractor rather than a smoking or neutral distractor. Mean accuracy was more dependent on the placement of the critical distractor. At lag 2 mean accuracy was decreased in the negative condition; however at lag 8 all conditions were comparable.