Jesse Dallery, Ph.D. • Associate Professor of Psychology
College of Liberal Arts and Sciences

Jesse Dallery studies the interplay between decision-making, nicotine, and smoking. He has also linked this translational work with innovative behavioral treatments to promote smoking abstinence, as well as other pro-health behavior.

His work has revealed that nicotine induces impulsive decision-making. Nicotine makes immediate, small payoffs even more valuable than delayed, larger payoffs. Other questions emerged: Did nicotine make waiting for larger payoffs more aversive? Or did nicotine reduce the perceived differences in payoff magnitudes? His tentative answer is that nicotine affects the perception of the payoff magnitudes.

Dallery is also interested in how nicotine affects the salience of cues associated with drugs of abuse. His work suggests that nicotine may increase choice for drugs (including relapse) by increasing the salience of cues associated with drugs.

Dallery has found that individual differences in impulsivity predict the propensity to smoke, even if such a decision means a loss of future monetary earnings. If researchers think of smoking itself as an impulsive decision, it means that, not only may impulsivity predict smoking, smoking may amplify such tendencies. Recently, Dallery has started to examine additional behavioral strategies (e.g., exercise) to decrease the motivation to smoke and impulsive behavior more generally.

Dallery’s focus on decision-making has led to several innovations to promote healthy choices, particularly the choice to abstain from cigarettes. A behavioral intervention known as contingency management, in which incentives are provided based on objective evidence of abstinence, has been remarkably successful in treating substance abuse. A key obstacle in applying the intervention to smoking was access. Dallery needed to objectively measure smoking to provide tangible incentives. In response, he developed a novel, Internet-based, contingency management intervention. Results from several studies, including an ongoing randomized, outpatient trial, suggest that the intervention is both feasible and efficacious in initiating smoking abstinence.