Avoidance goals can be beneficial: A look at smoking cessation

Keilah A. Worth, Helen W. Sullivan, Andrew W. Hertel, Alexander J Rothman, Robert W Jeffery

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

26 Scopus citations


This research examined the approach and avoidance goals that people hold when attempting to quit smoking and the behavioral consequences of holding these goals. We predicted that in the domain of smoking cessation, avoidance goals would be beneficial. A community sample of smokers (N = 591) reported their personal goals for quitting smoking prior to participating in an 8-week smoking cessation program. We found that smokers reported a greater percentage of avoidance goals than previously found in educational settings and smokers with a higher proportion of avoidance goals were more likely to quit smoking. The beneficial effect of avoidance goals was largely due to a particular type of avoidance goal, one in which the person is trying to cure a current negative state. This research highlights the value of studying the consequences of avoidance goals in multiple contexts to examine the impact of different types of avoidance goals.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)107-116
Number of pages10
JournalBasic and Applied Social Psychology
Issue number2
StatePublished - 2005

Bibliographical note

Funding Information:
This research was supported by grant NS38441 from the National Institute of Neurological Disorders and Stroke. Portions of this research were presented at the annual meeting of the American Psychological Association, August 2002. The order of the first two authors was assigned by a coin toss. We thank Steven Martino for his help coding the goals. We thank The Challenge Study team for their help conducting the intervention and Emily Finch, Jennifer Linde, Debbie Ng, and Shige Oishi for their comments on a previous version of this article.


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