Date of Award


Document Type


Degree Name

Doctor of Philosophy (PhD)




Experimental studies investigating the aversive imagery technique of Covert Sensitization as a cigarette smoking deterrent have not clearly testified to its effectiveness. They have either deviated from Cautela’s technique and/or confounded their results by adding other components to it.

The present study tested the hypothesis that the successful results of Covert Sensitization requires both therapist-administered treatment and instructions that Subjects (Ss) also self-administer treatment. The self-administered treatment (homework) consisted of Ss imagining Covert Sensitization scenes twice a day between meetings with the Experimenter (E).

Thirty-six habitual smokers were randomly assigned to one of three training groups; one group of twelve was taught only to imagine Covert Sensitization scenes when described by the E (CSN); a second group of twelve was additionally instructed to practice imagining them tv/ice a day between meetings (CSH); a third group of twelve was taught to relax using Wolpe’s relaxation technique and told to practice relaxing twice a day between meetings (RH). The three E's, who were randomly assigned one group from each condition, trained each of the thirty-six Ss, and collected self-report data during six hourly sessions and four follow-up weeks.

Analysis of the data indicated that the groups smoked at different rates over time, and that the RH group smoked less than the C3N group over the follow-up periods. Although all the groups smoked fev/er cigarettes once treatment began, the GSN group then increased its smoking rate throughout both treatment and follow-up weeks and the CSH group increased its smoking once treatment stopped. However, contrary to expectations, the RH group generally continued its decrease toward zero cigarettes smoked.

Speculation about these results and implications for future research were discussed, and it was suggested that the Covert Sensitization treatment was ineffective because of a low frequency of punishment or the possible use of weak aversive scenes by the Es.

The effectiveness of the RH treatment was interpreted as due to its dealing with tension, a possible underlying cause of smoking.

The reader was cautioned that these results may have been influenced by uncontrolled factors and ways to deal with these factors in future studies were discussed. Although the results of this study were inconclusive, this study has opened further areas for investigation.