Episodic Future Thinking about Smoking-Related Illness: A Preliminary Investigation of Effects on Delay Discounting, Cigarette Craving, and Cigarette Demand

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2022-06-10

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MDPI

Abstract

Cigarette smokers show excessive delay discounting (devaluation of delayed rewards), which may contribute to tobacco use disorder. Episodic future thinking (EFT), or mental simulation of future events, has been shown to reduce both delay discounting and laboratory smoking behavior. Traditionally, EFT involves vividly imagining positive future events. In this preliminary investigation, we examined the effects of EFT specifically about smoking-related illness (SRI) on delay discounting, cigarette craving, and behavioral economic demand for cigarettes. In a 2 (episodic thinking) × 2 (smoking-related illness) factorial design, we randomly assigned smokers from Amazon Mechanical Turk to one of two EFT groups: EFT alone or EFT + SRI; or one of two episodic “recent” thinking (ERT) control groups: ERT alone or ERT + SRI. Both EFT groups generated and imagined positive future events, while both ERT groups imagined real events from the recent past. Both EFT + SRI and ERT + SRI groups imagined these events while also experiencing SRI symptoms. Participants then completed assessments of delay discounting, cigarette craving, and measures of cigarette demand. We observed significant main effects on delay discounting of both EFT (reduced discounting) and SRI (increased discounting), as well as significant main effects of both EFT and SRI on cigarette craving (in both cases, reduced craving). No significant main effect of EFT was observed on cigarette demand measures, although we observed a main effect of SRI on quantity of demand when cigarettes were free (Q0) (reduced demand). In all analyses, we observed no significant EFT × SRT interactions, indicating that these variables operate independently of one another. These methods may be adapted for use in clinical treatment to aid in smoking cessation interventions.

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Ruhi-Williams, P.; King, M.J.; Stein, J.S.; Bickel, W.K. Episodic Future Thinking about Smoking-Related Illness: A Preliminary Investigation of Effects on Delay Discounting, Cigarette Craving, and Cigarette Demand. Int. J. Environ. Res. Public Health 2022, 19, 7136.