Document Type




Degree Granting Department


Major Professor

Thomas H. Brandon


behavioral economics, relapse, self-control, smoking, withdrawal


The need to understand the reinforcing properties of smoking and potential precipitants of relapse is exemplified by evidence that relapse rates exceed 95%. The Self-Control Strength model, which proposes that self-control is dependent upon limited resources and susceptible to fatigue, may offer insight into the relapse process. Indeed, there is empirical support that engaging in a task that requires self-control, relative to a comparable control, results in performance decrements on subsequent self-control tasks. The primary goal of the current study was to test whether self-control depletion (SCD) may serve as a novel antecedent for cessation failure, using a validated laboratory analogue of smoking lapse and relapse. We also aimed to compare SCD effects to those of a well-established relapse precipitant (i.e., nicotine deprivation), and test craving and behavioral economic indices as mechanisms for increased cessation failure. We used a 2 X 2 (12-hour deprivation vs. no deprivation; SCD vs. no SCD), crossed-factorial, between-subjects design (N=128 smokers). Replicating prior research, nicotine deprivation significantly increased craving, cigarette demand, delay discounting, and lapse behavior. Furthermore, craving was the only mediator of deprivation effects on lapse behavior. Finally, the primary hypothesis of the study was supported, as SCD increased lapse behavior (p = .04). Although no main effects were found for SCD on putative mediators (i.e., craving, demand, discounting), SCD was found to increase craving among nicotine deprived smokers (p = .04), which mediated cessation failure. SCD appears to play in important role in smoking behavior and may be a viable candidate for intervention.

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