If you’ve ever tried to quit smoking or quit eating fast food or kick a nasty heroin habit, you probably know that once you get a taste of that old addiction, you’re right back to selling your roommates TV for a Big Mac.

Now scientists give a bit of a glimpse into why people slip back into bad habits — it’s all ego.

Northwestern University psychologists designed a test for ex smokers based on the wonderful movie “200 Cigarettes.”

Researchers first asked the smokers how strong their willpower was, then let them choose from several different tests with varying monetary awards.

One test had ex smokers watch the movie — which prominently displays cool people smoking and sitting around — with an unlit cigarette sitting on the table. For a larger reward, participants could keep the unlit cigarette in their hand. And for the most money, smokers had to keep an unlit cigarette in their mouths.

Researchers said that the people who claimed to have the highest willpower opted for bigger rewards, but ultimately failed more than their weak-willed counterparts.

Smokers told that they had high self-control exposed themselves to significantly more temp¬tation than their counterparts—opting on average to watch the movie while holding a cigarette—and they failed to resist lighting up three times as often as those told they had low self-control.

The reason behind it, researchers say, is that people who have “successfully” kicked a bad habit tell themselves that it’s OK to have a puff. Then those people who thought they were so strong-willed are right back on the nicotine train.

You’d think it would be a no-brainer, if you quit doing something bad, actually quit doing it. If you’re a drunk, stay out of bars; if you’re a fat addict, stay away from the drive thru; and if you’re a junkie … please come over, daddy needs a fix.

[Via Scientific American]

Nick Upton

I write words.

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