Graduation Year


Document Type




Degree Name

Master of Arts (M.A.)

Degree Granting Department


Major Professor

Thomas H. Brandon, Ph.D.

Committee Member

David J. Drobes, Ph.D.

Committee Member

Joel K. Thompson, Ph.D.

Committee Member

Geoffrey F. Potts, Ph.D.


attentional bias, cigarettes, eye-tracking, food


Background: Cross-sectional and experimental research has shown that female smokers more frequently report using cigarettes to control negative affect, manage dietary restraint, and suppress body image dissatisfaction. However, there has been little research to identify cognitive mechanisms that may underlie these effects. Cross-stimulus attentional bias is one such mechanism.

Aims and Hypotheses: We hypothesized that, when compared to neutral stimuli, in-vivo appetitive stimuli would enhance motivation to obtain a particular substance. More specifically, in-vivo smoking stimuli would increase attentional bias to smoking-related pictorial cues, whereas in-vivo food stimuli would increase attention to smoking-related and food-related pictorial cues. We also hypothesized that environmental tobacco smoke exposure history, negative affect, dietary restraint, body image dissatisfaction, and perceived appetite suppression of smoking would influence these attentional biases, such that higher levels of these characteristics would produce greater attentional biases.

Method: Thirty-five female smokers were exposed to visual stimuli containing two independent pictorial cues: smoking/neutral, smoking/food, neutral/food, or neutral/neutral. Twenty images were presented in 3 counter-balanced, within-subjects sets differentiated by smoking (cigarette pack), food (snack) and neutral (jewelry) in-vivo stimuli. Attentional bias was measured using eye-tracking technology. Dietary restraint, body image dissatisfaction, negative affect, and environmental tobacco smoke exposure were assessed with self-report measures before the manipulations.

Results: Effects counter to the hypotheses were observed, as in-vivo cigarettes and snack foods did not cause participants to differentially attend to pictorial smoking or food stimuli. Initial and maintained attention to smoking pictorial cues was greater than attention to food and neutral cues only when participants were administered a non-appetitive in-vivo stimulus. None of the theoretically hypothesized personality characteristics served as predictors or moderators of attentional bias.

Discussion: Findings with the neutral in-vivo stimulus replicate and extend previous research identifying attentional bias for smoking cues among smokers. Results also enhance understanding of how attentional bias may change when smokers encounter other types of appetitive stimuli. These findings encourage further theoretical and clinical exploration of how the relationship between motivation and attentional bias can be conceptualized and translated from the laboratory to the natural environment.