A new study says that if you try to block out thoughts of smoking, you end up smoking more than usual.
St. George's, University of London and the University of Hertfordshire researchers show that many smokers attempting to give up-as well as people trying to quit other vices-may be thwarted by the very technique they use to stop.
"If trying to avoid thoughts of something in an attempt to give it up actually unwittingly triggers a subsequent increase, it's a poor method of achieving self control. This work may stop people using quitting techniques that are ultimately harmful," said psychologist Dr. James Erskine.
Erskine and his team set out to test behavioural rebound-the phenomenon where trying not to think about something leads to an increase in the behaviour.
The study showed that smokers who were asked to deliberately suppress their thoughts about smoking were actually smoking six cigarettes more in a week.
Erskine said, "This shows a clear behavioural rebound. This method may be effective in reducing unwanted behaviour in the short term. But this actually isn't helpful, as smokers might then think that thought suppression is a useful strategy in quitting smoking."
The research is published in Psychological Science.