In many Psychology 101 classes, smoking is presented as the prime example of cognitive dissonance: when we choose to keep doing something even though we know it’s bad for us. For years, doctors have said if we did know precisely how bad smoking was for us—i.e. if we could actually witness the cellular destruction in our lungs—we’d stop immediately.

But a new study has shown that’s not the case. Smokers who were shown images of their lungs, whether remarkably untouched by carcinogens or filled with worrisome pre-cancerous nodules, found a way to use their scans to justify their behavior.  Those who had good scans declared themselves immune to the effects of smoking, and those with poor scans figured they might as well keep smoking anyway since the damage was already done.

Yet another testament to the power of addiction. It turns out that smoking-cessation programs are a much more successful way to get people to kick the habit, so if you’re struggling, opt for behavior modification rather than photographic proof. Are you surprised by this study’s findings? Sound off in the comments.



New York Times: Lung Screening May Not Push Smokers to Quit