If a clinician wants to help a patient stop smoking, it helps to know what impels the smoker to light up in the first place. That's why researchers study the cues that drive people to smoke. The problem is that a common method of study -- asking participants to fill out diaries -- doesn’t present true information. Collecting this information in real time is far more accurate.
, a psychologist who teaches at the University of Pittsburgh, took a different approach toward a study on 304 long-term smokers who were attempting to quit. Participants were assigned mobile devices and prompted to answer questions five times a day about how they felt, whether they felt the urge to smoke and whether they had given in.
Shiffman says this is more effective than diaries, which people tend to fill out in one sitting – even filling them out a few days ahead of time. "I think we all understand that's flawed," he says. The psychologist has even co-founded a company called invivodata
, which provides methods to collect clinical study data electronically.
In the study of smokers who wanted to quit, Shiffman teamed up with The Methodology Center
at Penn State. The center focuses on the design of behavioral and health studies how their data are analyzed. In Shiffman's study, it showed that the relationship between a smoker's mood and craving for a cigarette changes over time. The next step is to figure out how this can be applied to patients' treatment plans.
Source: Saul Shiffman, University of Pittsburgh
Writer: Rebecca VanderMeulen