Psychology Ph.D. Dissertations


Impact of Vividness of Smoking Imagery and Complexity of a Task on Intensity of Nicotine Craving

Date of Award


Document Type


Degree Name

Doctor of Philosophy (Ph.D.)



First Advisor

Harold Rosenberg


Based on the Elaborated Intrusion theory of desire (Kavanagh, Andrade, & May, 2005), this two-part study was designed to examine whether manipulating smokers’ vividness of cigarette imagery impacted reported craving and whether the complexity of a computer-based visual task differentially reduced craving. In Study 1, we instructed undergraduate smokers (n=39) to imagine smoking-related imagery becoming either more vivid or less vivid (versus no-change control). Manipulating vividness of substance-related imagery had a significant impact on craving measured by Factor 1 (strong desire/intention/smoking as rewarding) of the Questionnaire of Smoking Urges-Brief Version (QSU-Brief; Cox, Tiffany, & Christen, 2001), but had no significant impact on craving measured by Factor 2 (urgent desire/relief smoking) of the QSU-Brief. In Study 2, we instructed undergraduate smokers (n=39) to attend to a relatively-simple versus relatively-complex visual task (versus a no-visual-task control) following two minutes of in situ cue exposure. Engaging in either the simple or complex visual task significantly and equally impacted craving during the intervention (as measured by three retrospective visual analog scales), but did not significantly impact concurrent reports of craving on the QSU-Brief Factors following completion of the intervention. One clinical implication of these findings is that teaching smokers strategies to decrease the vividness of substance-related mental imagery will reduce some aspects of craving, but that engaging in either simple or complex visual tasks warrants further evaluation as an intervention.