Support for twelve-step programs’ emphasis on powerlessness?
It doesn’t end there. In a third study, the researchers contrived to influence beliefs about self-control by giving student smokers a bogus implicit test of impulse control. Later, the students were challenged to watch the film “Coffee and Cigarettes” whilst abstaining from smoking. They were promised a greater cash reward the more difficult they made the challenge for themselves. In this case, students given bogus test feedback indicating they had high self-control were more likely to opt for greater temptation – holding the cigarette in their hand rather than having it on the desk – and they were more likely to give in to that temptation.
Finally, Nordgren’s team tested the idea that “restraint bias” could explain why drug addicts are so prone to relapse. They recruited 55 participants through a smoking-cessation programme, all of whom had been smoke free for at least three weeks. Those who said they had more impulse control also tended to say they wouldn’t be trying so hard to avoid temptation, such as the company of other smokers. Four months’ later, those with the inflated sense of impulse control were more likely to have relapsed.
“The restraint bias suggests that people are willing to experiment with addictive drugs simply because they believe they can overcome the addiction,” the researchers said. “An urgent task for future research is to test whether enduring shifts in impulse-control beliefs can be created.”