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The Relation between Smoking and Social Behaviour

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Since the beginning of my time in college, I have noticed the smoking culture that exists amongst college students. This captured my interest and when I got the opportunity to study a psychology related phenomenon, I decided to do a deeper study and analysis on smoking in relation to social interaction. For this literature review, I have assessed three papers to understand the relation between smoking, social interaction and social behaviour.

The first paper is a research paper by Robert R. Clark published in 2009. In this paper he studied the behaviour patterns of smokers and non-smokers in various situations of social interaction and co-related it to various behaviours associated with smoking. (Clark, 2009) The experiment took into account 91 smokers in 117 social settings. The demographic range of smokers was diverse as they were taken from different age groups, sex and race. The social interaction settings included public places, work places and private places. The method used for the study was independent field observation and raters of a videotape recording of an interaction. To ensure reliability of the method, independent field observation by 14 observers was taken into consideration and was compared to that made by the author and several raters of behaviour were made to analyse the videotape of a conversation between a smoker and a non-smoker. However, the paper did not explain the methods clearly and properly.

Though the author tried his best to make his sampling and methods diverse, there are certain confounds. Firstly, according to the data provided in the paper, 76% of the subjects who were made to interact in different social interaction settings knew each other from before as either family and friends or work colleagues. This introduces a bias and makes the findings inaccurate due to the relationship dynamics that are already present between the subjects rather than smoking. Secondly, although the author does take measures to ensure reliability, he does not give enough importance to the validity of the findings. Analysing only one videotape by different raters and drawing conclusions based on it, does not ensure validity as personal biases can deviate the findings to a large extent.

Apart from these criticisms, the paper provides a suggestion which I am considering using as an alternate method in my experiment. In this method, I can divide my subjects into six groups with each group comprising of only smokers and give them a topic to discuss but with two different settings over a span of a week. In the first setting, smoking would not be allowed and in the second one it would be allowed. Comparison would be drawn on the intensity and depth of the discussion in the six groups in the two different settings.

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In the second paper by David and Charles, they studied the effects of smoking on heartrate, anxiety and mood/emotions during social interaction. (Gilbert, Spieiberger, 1986) The experiment they conducted was too controlled. The experiment involved 12 subjects, 6 males and 6 females, who were divided into groups of 2 of the same sex. The duos were made to sit in a room for three different sessions spanned over a period of 3 to 20 days. For each session, the duos were given topics for discussions. Their speaking, smoking and time of interaction was very restrictive and monitoring. Due to this reason, the subjects may have gotten overwhelmed by the set up and the instructions, which may have affected the way they smoke, discuss and put forth their opinions. Their heartrate, anxiety, mood and involvement in the interaction may have differed because of the overwhelming nature of the experiment rather than the act of smoking or the effect of nicotine. Therefore, it lacks naturalistic surroundings which is ideal for experiments which involve acts of smoking and social behaviour. The discussion should have been left open and the amount and intensity of speaking by each of the participants should have been assessed as telling participants when to speak and when not to can be very leading.

However, the initial part of the experiment in which a questionnaire is given to the subjects to gauge their interests and opinions on various topics can be incorporated in my previously mentioned alternate method. By evaluating the responses to the questionnaire, I can divide groups in such a manner that the subjects have different opinions about certain topics. This will help in ensuring interesting and active conversations between the subjects which will in turn help in my assessment.

In the paper, Social Factors of Cigarette Smoking Initiation among Undergraduate College students Jane F. Emmerée did extensive research on various factors which affect initiation of smoking amongst undergraduate students. In one part, he explains the relationship between the three explanatory variables and smoking. One of the variables he discusses is sociability. Even he agrees that as compared to the amount of research on the relationship between friends’ behaviour and smoking initiation, effects of smoking on sociability and social behaviour has been studied less extensively. Yet overall, a limited number of longitudinal and cross-sectional studies have found a positive relationship between smoking and sociability or social behaviour.

In the past, research and experiment done by Cherry & Kiernan in 1976 and Spielberger & Jacobs in 1982 have established the fact that smokers are significantly more likely than non-smokers to be extroverts, as mentioned in the review paper. (Emmerée, 2003) Reading the paper, opened up another aspect of looking at the relation between smoking and sociability in a reverse manner. This means that study can be done on how extroversion or sociability influences non-smokers to initiate smoking. Though my hypothesis establishes a causal relation between smoking and social interaction, to extend it later on and make it a correlation I can take into account the inverse relationship mentioned in the review paper. This will not only broaden my study but will also increase its validity which is a very essential component of a psychology experiment.

The findings of all the three papers seem to have established a positive correlation between smoking and social behaviour or social interaction. However, the methods used are flawed. This area of research could afford a more objective and reliable measure in order for it to be more insightful.

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