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Disengagement beliefs in smokers: Do they influence the effects of a tailored persuasive message advocating smoking cessation?

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Disengagement beliefs function to reduce cognitive dissonance and a number of predictions with regard to disengagement beliefs have been tested and verified. However, the influence of disengagement beliefs on persuasion has not been studied yet. In a field-experiment, 254 smokers were randomly assigned to a persuasive message condition or a no-information control condition. First, it was assessed to what extent disengagement beliefs influenced persuasion. In smokers with low adherence to disengagement beliefs, quitting activity (attempting to quit) in the control condition was high, but this was not further increased by persuasive information on the negative outcomes of smoking. In contrast, smokers who strongly adhered to disengagement beliefs showed low quitting activity in the control condition, but significantly more quitting activity when they received the persuasive message. Second, it was studied what smokers do when they experience negative affect caused by the persuasive message. The results show that in smokers who strongly adhered to disengagement beliefs, negative affect was associated with less quitting activity. Although these results show that quitting activity as assessed at 2 and 8 months follow-ups was influenced by disengagement beliefs, point prevalence seven-day quitting was not. This study shows that adherence to disengagement beliefs is a relevant individual difference in understanding effects of smoking cessation interventions.
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Keywords: computer-tailoring; disengagement beliefs; fear-appeals; smoking cessation

Document Type: Research Article

Affiliations: Department of Clinical and Health Psychology, Leiden University,

Publication date: September 1, 2009

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