Implicit attitudes towards smoking predict long-term relapse in abstinent smokers

Adriaan Spruyt, Valentine Lemaigre, Bihiyga Salhi, Dinska Van Gucht, Helen Tibboel, Bram Van Bockstaele, Jan De Houwer, Jan Van Meerbeeck, Kristiaan Nackaerts

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

20 Citations (Scopus)


RATIONALE: It has previously been argued that implicit attitudes toward substance-related cues drive addictive behavior. Nevertheless, it remains an open question whether behavioral markers of implicit attitude activation can be used to predict long-term relapse.

OBJECTIVES: The main objective of this study was to examine the relationship between implicit attitudes toward smoking-related cues and long-term relapse in abstaining smokers.

METHODS: Implicit attitudes toward smoking-related cues were assessed by means of the Implicit Association Test (IAT) and the evaluative priming task (EPT). Both measures were completed by a group of smokers who volunteered to quit smoking (patient group) and a group of nonsmokers (control group). Participants in the patient group completed these measures twice: once prior to smoking cessation and once after smoking cessation. Relapse was assessed by means of short telephone survey, 6 months after completion of the second test session.

RESULTS: EPT scores obtained prior to smoking cessation were related to long-term relapse and correlated with self-reported nicotine dependence as well as daily cigarette consumption. In contrast, none of the behavioral outcome measures were found to correlate with the IAT scores.

CONCLUSIONS: These findings corroborate the idea that implicit attitudes toward substance-related cues are critically involved in long-term relapse. A potential explanation for the divergent findings obtained with the IAT and EPT is provided.

Original languageEnglish
Article number3893
Pages (from-to)2551-2561
Number of pages11
Issue number14
Publication statusPublished - Jul 2015
Externally publishedYes


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