Tobacco & Nicotine Products
The Role of Motivation in Smokers' Subjective Responses to Placebo Cigarettes
Babita Das (School of Public Health (UMD) Behavioral and Community Health Faculty)
It is believed that a variety of psychological mechanisms play a role in producing placebo effects, including but not limited to expectations, conditioning, and motivation. Most research to date has focused on classical conditioning and expectancy explanations, but few studies have examined how motivation to respond to a placebo contributes to the placebo effect. This study attempted to manipulate the motivation to respond to a placebo (denicotinized) cigarette in regular smokers. Participants were randomly assigned to an instructional set manipulation intended to induce low motivation to experience placebo effects (n=40) or high motivation to experience placebo effects (n=40) before they knowingly smoked a placebo cigarette. Motivation was manipulated via scripts that described people who like placebo cigarettes as either possessing desirable (e.g., educated) or undesirable characteristics. Urge to smoke, mood, nicotine withdrawal, and smoking satisfaction were assessed before and after the manipulation. Smokers in the high motivation group reported significantly greater reduction in urge and withdrawal, and greater smoking satisfaction and reward than those in the low motivation group, even after controlling for socially desirable responding. These results are among the first to empirically demonstrate that motivation may play a role in placebo responding and could have implications for the use of open-label placebos as therapeutic agents.
Importance to public health: