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Soutschek, Alexander; Bulley, Adam; Wittekind, Charlotte E. (2022): Metacognitive deficits are associated with lower sensitivity to preference reversals in nicotine dependence. Scientific Reports, 12 (1). ISSN 2045-2322

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Deficits in impulse control belong to the core profile of nicotine dependence. Smokers might thus benefit from voluntarily self-restricting their access to the immediate temptation of nicotine products (precommitment) in order to avoid impulse control failures. However, little is known about how smokers’ willingness to engage in voluntary self-restrictions is determined by metacognitive insight into their general preferences for immediate over delayed rewards. Here, with a series of monetary intertemporal choice tasks, we provide empirical evidence for reduced metacognitive accuracy in smokers relative to non-smokers and show that smokers overestimate the subjective value of delayed rewards relative to their revealed preferences. In line with the metacognitive deficits, smokers were also less sensitive to the risk of preference reversals when deciding whether or not to restrict their access to short-term financial rewards. Taken together, the current findings suggest that deficits not only in impulse control but also in metacognition may hamper smokers’ resistance to immediate rewards and capacity to pursue long-term goals.

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