"Do smokers think about death differently?" Big Questions Online's Heather Wax
turns a recent study
into a question. The study, conducted by psychologist Jamie Arndt, cleverly examined if warnings on cigarette packages were
likely to have any effect at all. Before asking people to smoke, he reminded them subtly of death or failure:
... student smokers complete questionnaires designed to induce either
thoughts of their own mortality or thoughts about failing an exam. Then
the researchers offered the students a cigarette and measured every
person’s smoking intensity--each puff's volume, flow and duration.
smokers, unsurprisingly, smoked less enthusiastically
after the reminder about mortality. But heavy smokers "reacted to thoughts
of death by taking even harder drags on their cigarettes." In other
words, as Arndt suggested, they may have reacted to mortality by trying
to overpower it with nicotine—to "dispel a negative mood with an
." So those vivid, even gruesome reminders of death on some cigarette packs may have, for heavy smokers, the opposite of the intended effect. Why?
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