, Volume 229, Issue 1, pp 187–197 | Cite as

Automatic approach bias towards smoking cues is present in smokers but not in ex-smokers

  • Corinde E. WiersEmail author
  • Simone Kühn
  • Amir Homayoun Javadi
  • Ozlem Korucuoglu
  • Reinout W. Wiers
  • Henrik Walter
  • Jürgen Gallinat
  • Felix Bermpohl
Original Investigation



Drug-addicted individuals show automatic approach tendencies towards drug-related cues, i.e., an approach bias (ApB). Nevertheless, little is known about ApB in tobacco smokers and about the presence of ApB after smoking abstinence.


We investigated ApB to smoking cues in heavy tobacco smokers versus never-smokers and studied its relation to smoking characteristics and craving. Second, we compared ApBs of heavy smokers with biases of abstinent heavy smokers.


A group of current heavy smokers (n = 24), ex-smokers who were abstinent for at least 5 years (n = 20), and never-smokers (n = 20) took part in the experiment. An indirect smoking approach avoidance task was performed, in which participants were required to respond to pictures of smoking and neutral cues by pulling (approach) or pushing (avoid) on a joystick, according to the content-irrelevant format of the picture (landscape or portrait). Craving scores were examined using the Questionnaire of Smoking Urges.


Heavy smokers showed an ApB for smoking cues compared to ex-smokers and never-smokers, which correlated positively to craving scores. There were no group differences in ApB scores for ex-smokers and never-smokers.


These results suggest that ApBs for smoking cues are present in heavy smokers and decrease after long-term successful smoking cessation.


Addiction Smoking Smoking cessation Implicit cognition Approach bias Approach avoidance task 



Approach bias


Approach avoidance task


Questionnaire of smoking urges



The study was supported by a grant from the German Federal Ministry of Education and Research: NGFN: 01GS08159 (Gallinat). The authors thank Georgina Torbet, Noah Gabriel Martin, and James Harwood for proofreading.

Conflict of interest



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Copyright information

© Springer-Verlag Berlin Heidelberg 2013

Authors and Affiliations

  • Corinde E. Wiers
    • 1
    • 2
    Email author
  • Simone Kühn
    • 3
  • Amir Homayoun Javadi
    • 4
  • Ozlem Korucuoglu
    • 5
  • Reinout W. Wiers
    • 5
  • Henrik Walter
    • 1
    • 2
  • Jürgen Gallinat
    • 1
  • Felix Bermpohl
    • 1
    • 2
  1. 1.Department of Psychiatry and PsychotherapyCharité - Universitätsmedizin BerlinBerlinGermany
  2. 2.Berlin School of Mind and BrainHumboldt Universität zu BerlinBerlinGermany
  3. 3.Max Planck Institute for Human DevelopmentCenter for Lifespan PsychologyBerlinGermany
  4. 4.Institute of Behavioural Neuroscience, Department of Cognitive, Perceptual and Brain SciencesUniversity College LondonLondonUK
  5. 5.Addiction, Development and Psychopathology (ADAPT) Lab, Department of PsychologyUniversity of AmsterdamAmsterdamthe Netherlands

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