Cue-induced smoking urges deplete cigarette smokers' self-control resources

Ann Behav Med. 2013 Dec;46(3):394-400. doi: 10.1007/s12160-013-9520-8.


Background: Exposure to smoking-related cues leads to increased urge to smoke in regular cigarette smokers and resisting these urges requires considerable self-control.

Purpose: Adopting a resource depletion model, two studies tested the hypothesis that resisting smoking urges depletes self-control resources.

Methods: Adopting a within-participants randomized cross-over design, participants (study 1, N = 19; study 2, N = 32) were exposed to smoking-related (study 1: smoking images; study 2: cigarette cue-exposure task) and neutral (study 1: neutral images; study 2: drinking-straw task) cues with presentation order randomized. After each cue set, participants completed self-control tasks (study 1: handgrip task; study 2: handgrip and Stroop tasks), performance on which constituted dependent measures of self-control.

Results: Self-control task performance was significantly impaired when exposed to smoking-related cues compared to neutral cues. No significant presentation-order effects, or interaction effects between stimulus and presentation order, were found.

Conclusions: Findings corroborate our hypothesis that resisting smoking urges depletes cigarette smokers' self-control resources and suggests that self-control capacity is governed by a limited resource.

Publication types

  • Randomized Controlled Trial

MeSH terms

  • Behavior, Addictive / psychology*
  • Cross-Over Studies
  • Cues*
  • Female
  • Humans
  • Male
  • Models, Psychological
  • Odorants
  • Photic Stimulation
  • Smoking / psychology*
  • Social Control, Informal*
  • Young Adult