Academic journal article International Journal of Psychology and Psychological Therapy

Measuring Adolescents' Smoking-Related Social Identity Preferences with the Implicit Relational Assessment Procedure (IRAP) for the First Time: A Starting Point That Explains Later IRAP Evolutions

Academic journal article International Journal of Psychology and Psychological Therapy

Measuring Adolescents' Smoking-Related Social Identity Preferences with the Implicit Relational Assessment Procedure (IRAP) for the First Time: A Starting Point That Explains Later IRAP Evolutions

Article excerpt

A host of changes in early adolescence increases concern about the self and provides new catalysts for engagement in potentially harmful behaviours, such as smoking and alcohol use. As early adolescents enter middle or junior high school, they experience changes in the organization and teaching practices of schools, which decrease social support from adults, break up the social networks formed in elementary school, and contribute to increased teasing and harassment from peers (Eccles et al., 1993). These conditions, especially the emergence of new social groups, appear to contribute to a decrease in academic performance (Chung, Elias, & Schneider, 1998; Gutman & Midgley, 2000), loss of interest in school (Midgley, Feldlaufer, & Eccles, 1988; Wigfield, Eccles, Yoon, & Harold, 1997), decreases in perceived academic and social competence and self-esteem (Anderman, Maehr, & Midgley, 1999; Wigfield & Eccles, 1994), and increases in general psychological distress (Chung et al., 1998). Some evidence suggests adolescents' experimentation with risky or unhealthy behaviours may arise from these difficulties as attempts are made to cope with their newly developing social situation by gaining kudos from new peers (Biglan, Brennan, Foster, & Holder, 2004). Indeed, with respect to tobacco use, several studies point to the social influence of peer relationships and role models as primary factors precipitating, and then supporting tobacco dependence (Gordon, Biglan, & Smolkowski, 2008; Kobus, 2003; Song, Ling, Neilands, & Glantz, 2007; Tickle, Hull, Sargent, Dalton, & Heatherton, 2006).

In broad outline, we know that the above-described challenges of early adolescence are associated with lower self-esteem, increased concerns about social acceptance, and the initiation of a variety of problems. However, there is little information about the specific ways in which adolescent cognitions about social identity and problem behaviours influence the actual prevalence of those problem behaviours. A core difficulty of conducting such research with adolescents is that their verbal behaviour concerning problem behaviours is prone to sources of stimulus control that influence self-report measures in confounding or unpredictable ways (cf. Adams, Parkinson, Sanson-Fisher, & Walsh, 2008; Dolcini, Adler, & Ginsberg, 1996; Greisler, Kandel, Schaffran, Daly, & Hu, 2008). For example, imagine if a young adolescent male were asked to indicate how strongly he agreed that teenagers who smoke tobacco were "cool" versus "uptight". Insofar as the question is perceived to be coming from a respected "authority" figure, such as a teacher or researcher, it is possible that a relatively anti-smoking response would be forthcoming. Alternatively, if the adolescent is inclined to present himself as a "bad boy", an exaggerated pro-smoking response may be offered. Indeed, the involvement of relatively complex variables in determining such verbal responses may undermine the individual's ability to produce verbal behaviour about their own smoking that is uncontaminated by audience control, or other social variables. One possible way of removing, or at least reducing, the influence of such extraneous variables is to minimize the amount of time available for each response.

The assumption here is that audience or other social variables need time to influence a response, and thus relatively rapid responding is less contaminated by such variables (Barnes-Holmes, Barnes-Holmes, Stewart, & Boles, 2010). This assumption lies at the core of a family of computerised response time measures designed to measure so-called implicit attitudes. Implicit measures all seek to capture attitudinal biases before they are obscured by the bifurcating deliberative processes underlying self-reported attitudes. At their core, all measures of implicit cognition seek to do this using a similar general methodological strategy: all require the rapid categorization of various stimulus objects, such that easier more familiar categorization tasks (i. …

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