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UBC Theses and Dissertations

Cognitive training for reducing cannabis use in young adults : comparing the approach-avoidance task and evaluative conditioning Robinson, Jill Marie


Substance use may be influenced by a combination of both reflective and impulsive cognitions (Wiers, Van Woerden, et al., 2002). Traditional prevention programs typically focus exclusively on reflective cognitions while impulsive cognitions are often left unexamined. Cognitive bias modification (CBM) has been proposed as an innovative method of reducing substance use in a variety of populations. Existing literature suggests that the Approach-Avoidance Task (AAT) and Evaluative Conditioning (EC) procedures have effectively altered cognitions and have also produced behaviour changes. However, most of the studies examining AAT and EC training for substance use have focused on alcohol and nicotine use. Research is needed to determine the effectiveness of these procedures for cannabis use. The aim of this study was to examine whether AAT and EC training was able to alter cognitions about cannabis and produce changes in behaviour. This study drew participants (n=293) from the undergraduate research pool at the University of British Columbia Okanagan. Participants completed six sessions of cognitive training over several weeks and a follow-up session one month after the sixth training session. This study used a 2x2 factorial design by randomizing participants into one of four conditions – EC, AAT, combination, or sham. Results indicated that the AAT training produced changes in cognition over 6 sessions, F (1.58, 135.06) = 6.97, p = .003, partial η2 = .08, while the EC training did not, F (5.3, 151.95) = .33, p = .90, partial η2 = .01. No changes in cannabis use behaviour were observed over time for those in the EC training group (all p’s > .05). Cannabis use was higher at the 1-month follow-up for those in the AAT training group (p = .03). Motives to use cannabis and cravings for cannabis predicted frequency of cannabis use and problems associated with use (p’s < .05) at Session 1 and Session 6. Gender and mental health diagnosis predicted frequency of cannabis use and problems associated with cannabis use at Session 1 (p’s < .05). This study is the first to examine the efficacy of the AAT and EC procedures to alter cognitions about cannabis use and associated behaviour.

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