Smoking and Self Concept

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Previous research on self-concept and adolescent smoking has tended to find relatively negative self-concepts of smokers compared with nonsmokers. More specifically, smokers have greater disparity between real and ideal self-concepts as well as lower self-esteem (Burton, Sussman, Hansen, Johnson, & Flay, 1989; Webster, Hunter, & Keats, 1994). Because different smokers smoke for different reasons, however, an idiographic approach such as the REP test should be better than the conventional methods at measuring these differences.

The idiographic REP test was used by Peter Weiss, Neill Watson, and Howard Mcguire (2003) in two groups of college students, which included both smokers and nonsmokers. More specifically, these researchers assessed participants' views of smokers' and nonsmokers' personalities using the REP test. They predicted that smokers would identify with and rate their own personalities more similar to the personality descriptions they have of other smokers than of nonsmokers. They also pre-

dieted lower self-concept (e.g., greater real versus ideal self disparity) for smokers than for nonsmokers.

Participants first gave initials of three smokers and three nonsmokers they knew, and the researcher later presented the participants with 18 different triads of two smokers and one nonsmoker and 18 triads of two nonsmokers and one smoker. Participants then used their own words to describe how the two were similar to each other and different from the third. Next, they judged how the two were different from each other and similar to the third. This resulted in 18 smoker personality trait terms and 18 nonsmoker personality trait terms unique to each participant. The 36 personality terms were then used in a self-concept assessment in which participants rated four distmct forms of self-concept using standard 7-point Likert scale: real self, ideal self, real social self, and ideal social self. The real self-rating was assessed by participants' ratmg themselves as they really are, whereas the ideal self was the rating as they would ideally be. The social self-ratings were assessed by asking participants to rate themselves as others their age would see them.

As predicted, smokers identified more with their descriptions of smoker personalities and vice-versa for nonsmokers. Among the more frequent traits attributed to smokers were "laid back," "outgoing," "lazy," and "loud," whereas the more frequent traits for nonsmokers were "quiet," "studious," "friendly," and "athletic." Interestingly, however, all participants endorsed and valued nonsmoker traits more highly than smoker traits on all four self-concept measures. That is, both the smokers and nonsmokers identified with and valued more highly the traits of nonsmokers (such as quiet, studious, etc.) than of smokers. The prediction that smokers would have lower self-esteem (greater real versus ideal self disparity) did not hold. Because this self-esteem finding came out of the literature with adolescent smokers, it may not hold with young adult smokers. A mam conclusion drawn by Weiss, Watson, and Mcguire is that the REP test is not only a useful tool for assessing self-concept, but it is perhaps a more valid and more individualized tool than standard questionnaire inventories.

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