Development and validation of a contextual behavioral distress intolerance task in cigarette smokers

Samantha G. Farris, Angelo M. DiBello, Michael J. Zvolensky

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

12 Scopus citations


Introduction: Distress intolerance, an individual's perceived or actual inability to withstand negative emotional or physical distress, contributes to the maintenance of smoking. However, there is limited understanding of the contextual factors that impact distress intolerance in general or among smokers specifically. This study aimed to adapt and test a computerized behavioral persistence task that requires re-typing a passage while adhering to specific instructions (Contextual-Frustration Intolerance Typing Task [C-FiTT]). C-FiTT was designed to model contextual factors that influence distress intolerance, negative affect, and smoking urges. Method: Daily smokers (n = 550) were recruited through the use of Qualtrics Panels. Using a 2 × 2 + 1 experimental design, participants were randomly assigned to one of four C-FiTT conditions that crossed task difficulty (low or high difficulty) with passage content (neutral or tobacco withdrawal text), or a neutral control group. Results: C-FiTT produced an average persistence time of 94.1 ± 114.3 s and 64.7% of participants self-terminated the task. C-FiTT also produced small to medium sized-increases in negative affect and smoking urges. Between-condition comparisons indicated that the high-difficulty C-FiTT produced shorter behavioral persistence, greater self-termination likelihood, and larger increases in negative affect and smoking urges. The combination of high-difficulty and withdrawal content resulted in the shortest persistence time, 100% self-termination rate, and largest increases in negative affect and smoking urges, compared to other conditions Conclusions: Findings provide initial evidence for the validity of C-FiTT in smokers within the context of tobacco withdrawal at low and high levels of task difficulty. Avenues for refinement and use of C-FiTT are discussed.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)260-266
Number of pages7
JournalAddictive Behaviors
StatePublished - Dec 2018

All Science Journal Classification (ASJC) codes

  • Medicine (miscellaneous)
  • Clinical Psychology
  • Toxicology
  • Psychiatry and Mental health


  • Distress intolerance
  • Measurement
  • Negative affect
  • Persistence
  • Tobacco withdrawal


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