The Imitation of Smoking Behavior during Real Life and Digital Interaction
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The current study investigated to what extent adolescents tend to imitate the smoking behavior of peers during both real life and digital interaction. Two different experiments were performed. The first experiment focused on mechanisms of the imitation of smoking behavior during real life, where participants were being exposed to a same-gender confederate who smoked zero cigarettes (non-smoking condition) or three cigarettes (heavy smoking condition) during a session. The second experiment was conducted to investigate mechanisms of imitation of smoking behavior during digital interaction, so the influence of tobacco smell on participants’ smoking behavior could be excluded. The same procedure was used as in the first experiment. In both experiments, the confederates’ smoking behavior affected the participants’ cigarette use significantly: participants smoked a higher number of cigarettes when being exposed to a heavy smoking confederate, during both real life and digital interaction. Imitation in terms of smoking typography could also be located in both experiments, when looking at time of lighting up a cigarette and the duration of smoked cigarettes by participant and confederate. The effect of confederates’ smoking behavior turned out to be higher during real life interaction. Mechanisms of imitation can serve as an explanation of why adolescents light up cigarettes and maintain cigarette smoking.