Thursday, November 19, 2009

GRAP Clinic study shows virtual environments help smokers quit

When we talk about the applications of virtual environments, we usually focus on enterprise learning, collaboration, and training. But Canadian researchers are finding more real-world uses for virtual environments -- to help smokers kick the habit.

Researchers from Canada's GRAP Occupational Psychology Clinic and the University of Quebec in Gatineau created a virtual environment, where, for 12 weeks, smokers chased down floating cigarettes and crushed them. A control group of smokers crushed floating balls in another virtual environment.

The researchers found a significant reduction in nicotine cravings among smokers in the cigarette-crushing group. After 12 weeks, 15 percent of the cigarette crushers had abstained from smoking, compared to 2 percent in the control group.

The researchers couldn't quite explain why the cigarette crushers were more successful. But they believe the virtual exercise might have conditioned them to resist their cravings, motivated them quit, and gave them more confidence they could do it.

Interesting finding, especially with today being the Great American Smokeout! You can read more about the study in the CyberPsychology and Behavior journal.

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