Cigarette Smoking is Associated with Difficulties in the Use of Reappraisal for Emotion Regulation

Paul Faulkner, Sandra Machon, Chris Brown, Marco Sandrini, Sunjeev Kamboj, Paul Allen

Research output: Working paperPreprint

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Background: Negative emotions can promote smoking relapse during a quit attempt.
The use of cognitive reappraisal to self-regulate these emotions may therefore aid
smoking cessation. Determining whether smokers exhibit difficulties in the use of
reappraisal, and which factors are associated with such difficulties, may aid smoking
Methods: 50 smokers and 50 non-smokers completed an online reappraisal task in
which they either reappraised or naturally experienced emotions induced by
negatively- and neutrally-valenced images that presented situations in either the 1st
person or 3rd-person perspective. Participants also completed the Difficulties in
Emotion Regulation Scale (DERS).
Results: Compared to non-smokers, smokers were less successful in using reappraisal
to self-regulate emotions elicited by negatively-valenced images (but not neutrallyvalenced images). Importantly, this effect was only true for images that were presented
in the 1st-person (but not 3rd-person) perspective. Contrary to predictions, there were
no group differences in DERS scores. However, exploratory analyses showed that when
smokers were split into those who exhibited low vs. high reappraisal success on the
reappraisal task (via median split), the low success group exhibited an association
between lower reappraisal success and a greater lack of emotional clarity on the DERS,
whereas no such association was observed in the high success group.
Conclusions: This study provides evidence that smokers may experience difficulties in
the use of reappraisal to self-regulate negative emotions induced by situations that
appear to be occurring to themselves, and that this deficit may be related to difficulties
in understanding the nature and/or valence of the emotion experienced.
Original languageEnglish
Publication statusPublished - 1 May 2022

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