I Suppress, Therefore I Smoke:
Effects of Thought Suppression
on Smoking Behavior

Journal:   Psychological Science, July 26, 2010. [Epub ahead of print]

Study Authors:  Erskine JA, Georgiou GJ, Kvavilashvili L.


Thought suppression is a method frequently employed by individuals who are trying to control their thoughts and behaviors. Although this strategy is known to actually increase unwanted thoughts, it is unclear whether thought suppression also results in behavioral rebound.

The study presented in this article investigated the effects of suppressing thoughts of smoking in everyday life on the number of cigarettes subsequently smoked. Study participants recorded their daily cigarette intake and stress levels over a 3-week period. In Week 1 and Week 3, participants monitored intake and stress. During Week 2, in addition to monitoring intake and stress, participants in the experimental groups either suppressed or expressed smoking thoughts, whereas the control group continued monitoring.

Our results showed a clear behavioral rebound: The suppression group smoked significantly more in Week 3 than the expression or control group did. Moreover, the tendency to suppress thoughts (measured by the White Bear Suppression Inventory) was positively related to the number of attempts to quit smoking. The implications of our findings for smoking cessation are discussed.

PubMed Abstract Link: http://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/20660892

Study Quotes:

Numerous studies demonstrate that suppressing negative or even neutral thoughts can have a rebound effect. Therefore, a person who suppresses a thought may end up thinking about the suppressed thought more frequently than if he or she had not attempted suppression (Wegner, Schneider, Carter, & White, 1987). Despite considerable evidence pointing to the ineffectiveness of thought suppression in achieving mental control, and the almost ubiquitous negative effects associated with the technique, thought suppression remains a widely used self-control strategy (Wenzlaff & Wegner, 2000).

Furthermore, people often use thought suppression in an attempt to control their behavior (Baumeister, Heatherton, & Tice, 1994). For example, people attempting to stop smoking are likely to avoid thinking about smoking. However, this strategy actually increases thoughts of smoking, making the process of quitting more difficult. Salkovskis and Reynolds (1994) conducted a study in which participants attempting to reduce or give up smoking suppressed or monitored their thoughts of smoking.

So what does the leading U.S. government quit smoking
website  advise quitters in regard to thinking about smoking?

"Instead of smoking:

Think about something else. "

Yep, once again U.S. health officials actually go
against science in advising smokers on how to quit

Edited 2 times by JohnPolito Aug 6 10 7:57 AM.