Is approach bias modification a useful tool in smoking cessation?

  • R. Wiers
  • H. Larsen
  • G. Kong
  • G. Guiquinto
  • B. van Bockstaele
  • M. Boffo
  • S. Krishnan-Sarin


Background: Approach bias modification (ApBM) has shown great promise as an add-on to treatment for alcohol use disorders, with replicated improvements in clinical outcomes (Wiers et al, 2011; Eberl et al., 2013; Manning et al., 2016). Earlier research had demonstrated that ApBM in addictive behaviours only exerts effect when participants are motivated to change their behaviours (review: Wiers et al., 2016). This can be achieved through motivational interviewing or motivated quitters can be selected. Here we present initial studies applying this method as add-on to a Cognitive and Motivational Intervention (CMI) for smoking cessation. Methods: In a first study we tested CMI combined with real vs. placebo ApBM in 60 smoking adolescents. We are currently running a second study in a young adult population. Findings: The expected specific effect in the reduction of an approach bias for smoking in the experimental condition was not found. Intent-to-treat (ITT) analyses showed that ApBM, when compared with sham trended toward higher end-of-treatment, biochemically confirmed, seven-day point prevalence abstinence, (17.2% vs. 3.2%, p.0.071). Initial results in the young adult population will be presented. Discussion: Initial results suggest that ApBM could be a useful add-on to smoking cessation interventions, especially for individuals motivated to quit who experience strong approach-tendencies, as has been shown in alcohol use disorders. More research is needed into integrating ApBM into effective cognitive-motivational smoking cessation interventions.