Clearing the Smoke: Parental Influences on Non-smokers’ Attentional Biases to Smoking-Related Cues

Document Type


Publication Date

Fall 9-2012


Children who have a parent who smokes are more likely to begin smoking than their peers who do not have a family history of smoking behavior. The goal of this study was to explore a potential mechanism to explain this relationship. It was hypothesized that college-age nonsmokers who have smoking parents would express an attentional bias for smoking-related cues relative to those without smoking parents. Participants were grouped according to whether one or both of their parents smoked (n=32) or neither parent smoked (n=31). A dot-probe paradigm was used in which picture pairs that consisted of a smoking-related picture and a nonsmoking control picture were displayed for either 500 or 2,000 ms. Each picture pair contained either human elements or objects alone. Attentional bias was calculated by subtracting reaction times to the smoking stimuli from nonsmoking stimuli as a function of content and presentation time. Participants with at least one smoking parent demonstrated an attentional bias to smoking-related pictures relative to control pictures when displayed for 2,000 ms, but only when they did not contain human content. Participants without a smoking parent showed no attentional bias. These results suggest that college-age nonsmokers who have smoking parents may be at-risk for late-onset smoking initiation because of their enhanced attention to smoking-related cues.

Journal Title

Psychology of Addictive Behaviors







Journal Article URL


First Page


Publisher Statement

©American Psychological Association, 2012. This paper is not the copy of record and may not exactly replicate the authoritative document published in the APA journal. Please do not copy or cite without author's permission. The final article is available, upon publication, at: 10.1037/a0025096.

This document is currently not available here.