Graduation Year

2007

Document Type

Thesis

Degree

M.A.

Degree Granting Department

Psychology

Major Professor

David J. Drobes, Ph.D.

Co-Major Professor

Thomas Brandon, Ph.D.

Committee Member

Douglas Nelson, Ph.D.

Keywords

Tobacco; addiction; posttraumatic stress disorder; cigarettes; co-occurring disorders

Abstract

Past research has highlighted the importance of better understanding the high rate of smoking among individuals exposed to trauma. However, few studies have investigated the cognitive mechanisms that may contribute to the smoking-trauma relationship. The primary goal of the present study was to examine the associative relationship between smoking and trauma at a cognitive level, by examining the extent to which trauma-relevant pictures primed attentional biases to smoking-related words on a modified Stroop task. Eighty trauma-exposed smokers (classified as having low, medium, or high levels of post trauma symptomatology) ink-named smoking-related and neutral words after being primed with trauma-related, positive, or neutral picture cues. Although participants did not display an overall significant difference in reaction time between smoking words and neutral words, we found a significant prime x word type interaction, with slower reaction time to smoking words after being primed by trauma-related pictures. In addition, we found a significant 3-way interaction between symptom severity level, prime category, and target type. Further analyses revealed that the prime x word type interaction was significant only among individuals with the lowest and highest levels of PTSD symptomatology. A secondary aim of the study was to evaluate the relationship between smoking-related variables and posttraumatic stress disorder symptoms on a dimensional range. We found that participants who were more severely impaired at the time of the study were more likely to report strong cravings to smoke. Overall, findings suggest that smokers who have experienced trauma exhibit an attentional bias to smoking words when primed with trauma-related picture, and that post-trauma symptoms are related to smoking motivation. Implications for treatment are discussed.

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