Psychology Ph.D. Dissertations

A Test of Elaborated Intrusion Theory: Manipulating Vividness of Imagery Interventions on Cigarette Craving

Date of Award


Document Type


Degree Name

Doctor of Philosophy (Ph.D.)



First Advisor

Harold Rosenberg

Second Advisor

Robert Carels (Committee Member)

Third Advisor

Steve Jex (Committee Member)

Fourth Advisor

Sharon Subreenduth (Committee Member)


Smoking cigarettes is considered to be the single most preventable cause of disease and death in the United States. Craving has been identified as one factor that contributes to the maintenance of nicotine use and relapse. The most recently proposed model of craving is the Elaborated Intrusion (EI) Theory (May, Andrade, Panabokke, & Kavanagh, 2004). EI theory views craving as the outcome of intrusive mental images/thoughts that arise from internal (e.g., drop in blood nicotine level) and external factors (e.g., the smell of a cigarette). In addition, elaboration or mental embellishment of initial intrusive images/thoughts of smoking will result in craving if such thoughts are accompanied by anticipated pleasure or relief. EI theory suggests that interrupting the process of elaboration with competing imagery tasks may reduce craving. The main purpose of the present study was to test whether manipulating the vividness of competing, movie-theatre imagery would decrease craving. Sixty current and regular smokers were trained to engage in either high vivid or low vivid imagery set in a movie theatre, or were instructed to imagine staring at a blank, white wall (control condition). Results supported two predictions of EI theory: a) the more vividly one imagined and/or had thoughts of smoking cigarettes, the higher was one's craving and b) the more vividly one imagined competing mental images (in the imagery conditions), the lower one's craving. However, neither the high or low imagery interventions significantly decreased craving compared to the control group. Methodological limitations and future directions are discussed.