Sex Differences in Tobacco Abstinence: Effects on Executive Functioning

Eleuteri, Francesca; Rusich, Danila; Jansari, Ashok S. and Arduino, Lisa. 2019. Sex Differences in Tobacco Abstinence: Effects on Executive Functioning. Psychology, 10(12), pp. 1622-1635. ISSN 2152-7180 [Article]

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Abstract or Description

Aims. Several studies suggested that both sex and tobacco abstinence influence some cognitive processes such as memory and attention. However, very few studies have investigated whether males and females differ in executive functions in relation to tobacco abstinence. We investigated the effects of nicotine abstinence on executive functions in both males and females by using a virtual reality task (JEF).

Design. A 2x2x8 mixed ANOVA was performed, with the percentages of task’s scores as dependent variable. Condition (Smoking and Abstinence) and Construct [Planning, Prioritization, Selective Thinking, Creative Thinking, Adaptive Thinking, Action Based Prospective Memory (ABPM), Event Based Prospective Memory (EBPM), Time Based Prospective Memory (TBPM)] as within subjects independent variables and Sex as between subject independent variable. Setting. Department of Human Sciences, Lumsa University in Rome. Participants. Thirty adults smokers, all University students, participated in the study (half females) (M age = 24.53; range = 18 – 35).

Measurement. The Virtual Reality task (JEF), which assesses eight cognitive constructs.

Findings. The main effect of Construct was significant (p< .0001) as the interaction between Sex and Construct (p<.01); post-hoc analysis showed that females obtained the lowest score in creative thinking while males obtained the lowest score in action-based prospective memory. More importantly, the interaction between Condition and Sex was also significant (p<.05) and post-hoc analysis indicated that males’ performance improved in the abstinence condition, whereas females’ performance remained quite stable across them. In both groups, event-based and time-based prospective memories obtained the highest scores.

Conclusion. The results of this study partly confirmed previous findings about sex differences in cognitive processes and how tobacco abstinence may differently affect males and females. However, the use of a more sensitive ecological tool has permitted to capture isolated elements of executive functioning that reflect theories of fractionated executive processes and better clarify the effects of smoking and sex differences.

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executive functions, smoking abstinence, sex differences, virtual reality

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18 March 2019Submitted
21 September 2019Accepted
24 September 2019Published

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Date Deposited:

03 May 2019 11:26

Last Modified:

12 Jun 2021 13:06

Peer Reviewed:

Yes, this version has been peer-reviewed.


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