Association of spontaneous and induced self-affirmation with smoking cessation in users of a mobile app: randomized controlled trial

Seaman, Elizabeth L, Robinson, Cendrine D, Crane, David, Taber, Jennifer M, Ferrer, Rebecca A, Harris, Peter R and Klein, William M P (2021) Association of spontaneous and induced self-affirmation with smoking cessation in users of a mobile app: randomized controlled trial. Journal of Medical Internet Research (JMIR), 23 (3). a18433. ISSN 1438-8871

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Most smokers attempt to stop using cigarettes numerous times before successfully quitting. Cigarette cravings may undermine perceived competence to quit and thus constitute psychological threats to the individual’s self-concept. Self-affirmation may promote smoking cessation by offsetting these threats.

This study examines whether self-affirmation is associated with smoking cessation in the context of a cessation app. Two types of self-affirmation are examined: tendency to spontaneously self-affirm, and self-affirmation inductions added to a publicly available smoking cessation app (Smoke-Free Quit Smoking Now). In addition, this study explores whether optimism and emotional states (happiness, anger, anxiousness, hopefulness, sadness) predict smoking cessation.

All users who met the inclusion criteria, provided consent to participate, and completed a baseline assessment, including all individual difference measures, were randomized to 1 of 4 conditions. Half of the participants were randomly assigned to complete a self-affirmation induction upon study entry. Orthogonally, half of the participants were randomly assigned to receive self-affirming text notifications during their quit attempt or to receive conventional notifications. The induction and the text notifications were fully automated, and all data were collected through self-assessments in the app. Self-reported smoking cessation was assessed 1 month and 3 months following study entry.

The study enrolled 7899 participants; 647 completed the 1-month follow-up. Using an intent-to-treat analysis at the 1-month follow-up, 7.2% (569/7899) of participants self-reported not smoking in the previous week and 6.4% (503/7899) self-reported not smoking in the previous month. Greater tendency to spontaneously self-affirm predicted a greater likelihood of cessation (P<.001) at 1 month after controlling for smoking-related variables. Neither self-affirmation induction influenced cessation. In addition, spontaneous self-affirmation did not moderate the relationship between self-affirmation inductions and cessation. Greater baseline sadness was associated with a lower likelihood of reporting successful cessation. Optimism predicted past-week cessation at the 1-month follow-up, and both happiness and anger predicted past-month cessation at the 1-month follow-up; however, none of these potential predictors moderated the relationship between self-affirmation conditions and successful cessation.

Spontaneous self-affirmation may be an important psychological resource for managing threats to self-concept during the smoking cessation process. Sadness may hinder quit attempts. Future research can explicate how spontaneous versus induced self-affirmation can promote smoking cessation and examine boundary conditions for the effectiveness of disseminated self-affirmation interventions.

Trial Registration:
ISRCTN Registry 56646695;

Item Type: Article
Keywords: smoking cessation, smartphone, mHealth, sadness, self-affirmation, spontaneous self-affirmation, apps, mobile phone
Schools and Departments: School of Psychology > Psychology
SWORD Depositor: Mx Elements Account
Depositing User: Mx Elements Account
Date Deposited: 19 Nov 2020 09:59
Last Modified: 25 Mar 2021 10:45

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