The proposed study will investigate the role of self-control in smoking cessation and whether interventions that improve self-control can help reduce the risk of lapsing among smokers who wish to quit. Quitting smoking takes self-control, as the craving for nicotine and the habit of smoking must be overridden. Such self-control is difficult and often fails, despite the best intentions of the individual. A new theory of self-control may help explain why and when self-control is likely to fail as well as provide a possible intervention that may improve self-control in the long-term. According to this theory, self-control performance depends a limited resource (self-control strenqth). Individuals higher in self-control strength perform better on measures of self-control than individuals lower in self-control strength. This strength is consumed (depleted) as the individual exerts self-control. Thus, in the short-term, exerting self-control should result in poorer self-control performance. Individuals trying to quit smoking should be more likely to lapse on days when they have many self-control demands than on days when they have fewer self-control demands. In the long run, exerting self-control should have the opposite effect. The theory predicts that practicing of self-control should lead to a building of strength and an improvement in self-control. Like physical exercise, exerting self-control leads to weakness and poorer performance in the short-term, but increased strength and better performance in the long-term. Prior studies have found evidence that practicing self-control leads to an improvement in self-control. We predict that smokers who practice self-control prior to quitting should be more likely to succeed in their cessation attempt than smokers who do not practice self-control. The present research can help advance our knowledge of both the short and long-term effects of exerting self-control on smoking cessation. This is important to understanding the self-control processes that underlie abstaining from cigarettes as well as changing other health behaviors. Information from this study will increase our comprehension of self-control and the regulation of smoking, which may be useful in the design of smoking cessation programs.

National Institute of Health (NIH)
National Institute on Drug Abuse (NIDA)
Research Project (R01)
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Special Emphasis Panel (ZRG1-RPHB-4 (01))
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Grossman, Debra
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State University of New York at Albany
Schools of Arts and Sciences
United States
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Muraven, Mark (2010) Practicing self-control lowers the risk of smoking lapse. Psychol Addict Behav 24:446-52
Muraven, Mark (2010) Building Self-Control Strength: Practicing Self-Control Leads to Improved Self-Control Performance. J Exp Soc Psychol 46:465-468
Muraven, Mark (2008) Autonomous Self-Control is Less Depleting. J Res Pers 42:763-770
Muraven, Mark; Gagne, Marylene; Rosman, Heather (2008) Helpful Self-Control: Autonomy Support, Vitality, and Depletion. J Exp Soc Psychol 44:573-585